Previously unheard words of Johnny Cash are coming to new life on April 6 with Legacy Recordings’ release of Forever Words, an album of new songs built around the late Man in Black’s unknown poems and writings. In the spirit of similar projects like The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams and Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes (setting new melodies to lost lyrics by Hank Williams and Bob Dylan, respectively), Forever Words features an all-star array of talent placing Cash’s words in an all-new musical setting.
Helmed by Cash’s son John Carter Cash and Legacy’s Steve Berkowitz, Johnny Cash: Forever Words was primarily recorded at The Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Though the upcoming release is a companion to the 2016 volume Forever Words: The Unknown Poems, that tome isn’t the only source of the lyrics. Letters and other unpublished writings have also been tapped.
The opening track “Forever/I Still Miss Someone” features two of Cash’s close friends and fellow Highwaymen. Kris Kristofferson recites the last poem Johnny ever wrote, while Willie Nelson provides guitar accompaniment. Furthering the familial spirit of these recordings, Johnny’s daughter Rosanne Cash offers “The Walking Wounded,” only the second time she has collaborated on a record with John Carter Cash. John Carter’s half-sister Carlene Carter, from his mother June’s first marriage, appears here, too, with “June’s Sundown.”
Other special guests drawn from the worlds of rock and country include Elvis Costello (“I’ll Still Love You”), John Mellencamp (“Them Double Blues”), the late Chris Cornell (“You Never Knew My Mind”), and the real-life couple of Kasey Musgraves and Ruston Kelly (“To June This Morning”). Jewel sings “Body on Body,” T Bone Burnett is heard on “Jellico Coal Man,” and The Jayhawks deliver “What Would I Dreamer Do?” Allison Krauss has reunited for the first time in six years with Union Station for “The Captain’s Daughter.”
John Carter Cash is quoted in the press release as saying that “determining the artist for each song was truly a matter of the heart. 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 I believe Dad would have wanted.”
Johnny Cash: Forever Words arrives on April 6 from Legacy Recordings in CD, 2-LP, and digital formats. You can peruse the track listing and pre-order links below!
- Forever/I Still Miss Someone – Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson
- To June This Morning – Ruston Kelly and Kacey Musgraves
- Gold All Over the Ground – Brad Paisley
- You Never Knew My Mind – Chris Cornell
- The Captain’s Daughter – Alison Krauss and Union Station
- Jellico Coal Man – T. Bone Burnett
- The Walking Wounded – Rosanne Cash
- Them Double Blues – John Mellencamp
- Body on Body – Jewel
- I’ll Still Love You – Elvis Costello
- June’s Sundown – Carlene Carter
- He Bore It All – Daily and Vincent
- Chinky Pin Hill – I’m With Her
- Goin’, Goin’, Gone – Robert Glasper featuring Ro James and Anu Sun
- What Would I Dreamer Do? – The Jayhawks
- Spirit Rider – Jamey Johnson