Johnny Cash's unreleased early 1990s demos have been discovered for a brand new album

24 April 2024, 15:50

Johnny Cash – Songwriter album trailer

By Mayer Nissim

Johnny Cash was warming up before American Recordings.

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Johnny Cash's partnership with Rick Rubin in the mid-1990s led to one of the greatest comeback stories in the history of music.

Cash had been reeling from an unsuccessful five-year run with Mercury Records when he re-emerged with the stunning American Recordings album, which spawned five follow-ups.

But between his unfulfilling time at Mercury and the American series, Johnny actually wrote and recorded a full album's worth of self-penned songs.

Those tracks were shelved in 1993 before he hooked up with Rubin, but 11 of those tracks have now been unearthed and given a makeover to become a proper new album.

With the exception of Cash's voice and guitar, all instrumentation on the recordings has been stripped away, with Cash's son John Carter Cash and David Ferguson co-producing the album.

Johnny Cash - Well Alright (Official Visualizer)

Called Songwriter, the album will be released on June 28 and is trailed by a single 'Well Alright' that you can stream now.

Players on the newly-recorded backing tracks include previous Cash collaborators Marty Stuart (guitar), Pete Abbott (drums) and Dave Roe (upright bass), as well as guest artists Waylon Jennings, Ana Cristina Cash, Vince Gill, The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and others.

"Nobody plays Cash better than Marty Stuart, and Dave Roe, of course, played with Dad for many years," said John Carter.

Johnny Cash performs at Central Park in 1993
Johnny Cash performs at Central Park in 1993. Picture: Getty Images

"The musicians that came in were just tracking with Dad, you know, recording with Dad, just as, in the case of Marty and Dave, they had many times before, so they knew his energies, his movements, and they let him be the guide.

"It was just playing with Johnny once again, and that’s what it was. That was the energy of the creation."

Johnny Cash died in 2003 at the age of 71, after the release of American IV: The Man Comes Around, which was followed by the posthumous release of the final two albums in the American series and contemporaneous My Mother's Hymn Book.

Johnny Cash - Songwriter
Johnny Cash - Songwriter. Picture: UME

The full tracklisting of Songwriter is as follows:

  1. Hello Out There
  2. Spotlight [ft. Dan Auerbach]
  3. Drive On
  4. I Love You Tonite
  5. Have You Ever Been to Little Rock?
  6. Well Alright
  7. She Sang "Sweet Baby James"
  8. Poor Valley Girl
  9. Soldier Boy
  10. Sing It Pretty Sue
  11. Like A Soldier
Johnny Cash at the Fez Cafe in New York City in 1993
Johnny Cash at the Fez Cafe in New York City in 1993. Picture: Getty Images

Songwriter is not the first posthumous Cash release of previously shelved recordings.

2014 saw the release of Out Among the Stars, 13 songs recorded by Cash in 1981 and 1984 with producer Billy Sherrill for Columbia Records.

Those songs had been discarded after the failure of the 1981 Sherrill-produced album The Baron, before being unearthed by John Carter who commissioned additional production to complete the album.