It’s hard to believe Johnny Cash has been gone for nearly 15 years. In that time, it seems the Man in Black’s legend has only grown bigger and bigger. It’s easy to forget there was a real man behind that larger-than-life persona, but a new project coming out next month will help us get reacquainted with the real Johnny Cash.
After Johnny’s passing in 2003, his son, John Carter Cash, discovered a vast amount of undiscovered poems, handwritten letters and other documents his father had penned. As the steward of his father’s legacy, John Carter realized how important these writings were. After all, Johnny Cash is the man who wrote the immortal country hits “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Still Miss Someone” and, of course, “I Walk the Line.”
John Carter compiled many of the writings in a 2016 book, titled “Forever Words: The Unknown Poems.” That collection became the inspiration for the new recorded project, “Forever Words: The Music,” which puts some of Cash’s poems and writings into song form.
John Carter says, “Our father was quite a prolific writer, and all through his life he wrote poetry … There seemed to be a beauty in these writings, and it became a focus to put some of these writings to music.”
An all-star cast appears on the album to interpret Johnny Cash’s words. There are his friends and former Highwaymen collaborators Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson performing the album-opening “Forever”/“I Still Miss Someone.” Real-life husband and wife Ruston Kelly and Kacey Musgraves duet on the song version of Johnny’s letter to his beloved bride, “To June This Morning.”
Brad Paisley contributes his vocals to “Gold All Over the Ground,” also included on Brad’s 2017 album, “Love and War.”
Brad says, “I was lucky enough and blessed enough that my friend here, John Carter Cash, has decided to make sure that his father’s unfinished works find a place in the world.”
John Carter also collaborated with his sister, Rosanne Cash, on the song “Walking Wounded.”
Rosanne says, “I really tried to feel what [Johnny] would have thought about it. It felt like a collaboration. I think he’d be proud of it. I am.”
Alison Krauss & Union Station, Jamey Johnson, John Mellencamp, Chris Cornell, Jewel, Elvis Costello and Carlene Carter are also among those contributing their voices to “Forever Words.”
Speaking on how he chose which artists would be part of the project, John Carter says it was “truly a matter of the heart.”
He explains, “I picked the artists who are most connected with my father, who had a personal story that was connected with Dad. It became an exciting endeavor to go through these works, to put them together and present them to different people who could finish them in a way that I believed that Dad would have wanted.”
“Forever Words” also reflects the variety of songs Johnny Cash wrote and/or recorded over the course of his career.
“He had such a diverse creativity,” John Carter adds. “He wrote dirges. He wrote broken-hearted ballads. He wrote triumphant love songs. All of these things come out in his writings.”
“Forever Words: The Music” will be released on April 6.