In late 2016, Penguin books published Forever Words, featuring previously unseen poetry by the late Johnny Cash. The icon’s son John Carter Cash, who read one of those poems in an interview with WMOT, indicated at the time that some artists had begun to set some of the poems to music.
This has now come to pass, and this being the Cash estate, it’s not been done half way.
None other than Kris Kristofferson recites the words to “Forever” over the chords of the Cash staple “I Still Miss Someone,” as strummed by Willie Nelson. This outlaw collaboration opens the album version of Forever Words, which was released in early April. And over 15 more tracks a Grammy laden lineup of stars performs Cash lyrics they set to original music.
Brad Paisley’s take on “Gold All Over The Ground” sounds like an freshly minted song that could make the country charts today. T Bone Burnett brings a spooky blues mood to “Jellico Coal Man.” Dailey & Vincent bring their bright gospel bluegrass authenticity to “He Bore It All.”
Rocker Chris Cornell’s contribution is particularly freighted. His adapted poem, “You Never Knew My Mind” was chosen as the conclusion to the book version of Forever Words, and his soaring, melancholy track was recorded shortly before the artist’s death, which was ruled a suicide.
Other major artists here include Elvis Costello, Alison Krauss, John Mellencamp and Jamey Johnson. Breaking up the country/bluegrass tone is a fascinating trip-hop jazz-based track from pianist Robert Glasper and R&B singer Ro James.
While John Carter produced most of the tracks, fellow Cash clan members Rosanne Cash and Carlene Carter offer songs as well.
The bulk of the music was recorded at the Cash Cabin in Hendersonville, a rustic but state of the art space that has seen roots music royalty come and go for years. The photos on the walls of Johnny and June Carter Cash are but one manifestation of their benevolent haunting of this musical space.
Newlywed artists Ruston Kelly and Kacey Musgraves bring their love story to the album with a poem that wasn’t published in the book: “To June This Morning”
OFFICIAL VIDEO: "FOREVER/I STILL MISS SOMEONE" AND "TO JUNE THIS MORNING"
FULL TRACK LISTING:
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 - Dailey & 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