Uncovered Cash Tracks Reveal Artistry in New Album ‘Songwriter’


In the year of 1993, famed country superstar Johnny Cash found himself without a record contract, standing on the precipice of an invigorating new chapter in his storied career. Within a year, he would enter into an emblematic creative partnership with renowned producer Rick Rubin, a collaboration that breathed life into the final decade of Cash’s magnificent reign in music. Beginning with the seminal release of “American Recordings” in 1994, their union became legendary.

But before that illustrious period commenced, Cash immersed himself in a deep, introspective dive into his craft. He painstakingly crafted and recorded a collection of original demo tracks, exhibiting the wealth of his songwriting abilities. Now, these songs, once shelved and forgotten, are set to see the light of day this Friday, recast into a full-fledged album.

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Curated by Cash’s own progeny, John Carter Cash, these recordings underwent an aural metamorphosis. Stripping them down to their raw essence – Johnny Cash’s distinctive voice and the soulful chords of his acoustic guitar – Carter Cash worked alongside co-producer David “Fergie” Ferguson and a host of musicians with whom his father had collaborated in times past to refine the raw material.

In tribute to its creator, this intriguing new release is inaptly named – ‘Songwriter’. Its contents: a collection of 11 tracks, each bearing the unique lyrical fingerprints of the Man in Black himself. To longtime fans of the Rubin era, two pieces will stir a sense of déjà vu. “Drive On” and “Like a Soldier”, now staples of the record “American Recordings”, find their primordial incarnations on “Songwriter”. While Rubin’s arrangements thrived in their raw and stripped-down simplicity, these early versions take on a unique textural breadth with their additional instruments – not necessarily superior, but refreshingly different.

Where most of Cash’s albums and live performances meld his own compositions with those of other artists, “Songwriter” positions Cash’s singular talent under a spotlight. Listeners will be offered a unique peek into the depths of Cash’s skill as a performer, composer, and lyricist – an intersection of his artistic path that has rarely been traversed so transparently before.

One of the tracks from “Songwriter”, the rockabilly-tinged “Well Alright”, offers listeners a pure, undiluted draught of Cash’s signature style – reminiscent of his timeless classics like “Big River”. This track could well have been included in the repertoire of The Grateful Dead, a band recognized for their covers of several Cash hits.

In essence, “Songwriter” affords a glimpse into an abbreviated, yet powerfully creative phase of Cash’s career, shortly before it was to be infused with new life by an innovative partnership with Rick Rubin. It may not be Johnny Cash’s most audacious work but it certainly serves as a poignant encapsulation of this transitional period in his legacy. Who could resist the allure of new, unearthed material from the Man in Black?