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More music from Johnny Cash

Monday, May 1, 2006 – Just when it seemed like there would be no more Johnny Cash recordings, more are in the offing.

"American V: A Hundred Highways," recording in the months leading up to his death on Sept. 12, 2003 with producer Rick Rubin, will be out July 4.

A previously unreleased slew of 49 songs, "Personal File," will be out later this month.

"American V" will be out on the American Recordings label through Lost Highway. It will include the last song Cash ever wrote.

Songs include "Help Me," a plea to God, the ballad "If You Could Read My Mind," "God's Gonna Cut You Down," a traditional spiritual, "Love's Been Good To Me," the heartrending "On The Evening Train," and "Further On (Up the Road)."

Songwriters for the tracks run the gamut from Hank Williams to Rod McKuen to Bruce Springsteen.

Two original Cash compositions are featured, "Like the 309" and "I Came to Believe." "Like the 309" is the last song Cash wrote and, like his first recorded single, 1955's "Hey Porter," is a song that incorporates one of his favorite settings, trains: "Everybody take a look/See I'm doin' fine/Then load my box/On the 309."

"I Came to Believe" is a song he wrote and originally recorded earlier in his career, and addresses the pain of addiction and connecting to a higher power.

"I think that 'American V' may be my favorite of all of the albums in the American series," said Rubin, who produced all of them, in a press release. "It's different from the others, it has a much different character. I think that this is as strong an album as Johnny ever made."

The months following the May 2003 passing of his wife June Carter Cash, were among the most physically and emotionally painful times in Cash's life, but keeping focused on the recording of "American V: A Hundred Highways" proved to be his salvation.

Rubin remembers, "Johnny said that recording was his main reason for being alive, and I think it was the only thing that kept him going, the only thing he had to look forward to."

Cash and Rubin began recording the songs for "American V: A Hundred Highways" in 2002, on the day after they finished "American IV: The Man Comes Around" which was released that November.

Cash feared that "American IV" might be his last release, so Rubin suggested that he immediately begin writing and recording new material. Over the next eight months, songs were cut at Rubin's Los Angeles studio and in Nashville at Johnny's main home and at his cabin located across the road.

Due to Cash's frail health, Rubin arranged for an engineer and guitar players to always be on call for the days that Cash felt strong enough to work.

"He always wanted to work," said Rubin. "Every morning when he'd wake up, he would call the engineer and tell him if he was physically up to working that day. Our main concern was to get a great vocal performance. Johnny would record a song, send it to me, and I would build a new track up under it. In the past, at the end of this process, he'd come to L.A. And we'd go through everything together, he would re-record any vocal bits that needed re-recording. But this time, we didn't have that opportunity."

Last year, Rubin began going through these final recordings. He admitted, "I kind of dreaded doing it, after Johnny passed, going back and listening to it...it was difficult."

"With all of the albums Johnny and I made together, our goal was for each one to be the best it could possibly be, and that remained the case with 'American V,'" Rubin explained.

Eventually, Cash's long-time engineer David "Fergie" Ferguson, Heartbreakers Mike Campbell (guitars) and Benmont Tench (keyboards), and Smokey Hormel (guitars), all of whom had worked on previous albums in the American series, along with Matt Sweeney (guitars) and Johnny Polonsky (guitars) went into the studio.

"We felt Johnny's presence during the whole process through to the end," said Rubin. "It felt like he was directing the proceedings, and I know that the musicians all felt that as well. Almost all of the songs were cut solely to Johnny's original vocal tracks, the musicians all keyed off his voice and were playing to him, supporting the emotion of his performance. More than once, Fergie and I would look at each other and say 'Johnny would love this,' because it was so good and so different from anything we'd done before, we knew he would be excited by what was happening."

It was decided to wait to release "American V: A Hundred Highways" until the plethora of recent Cash releases was over. They included several packages of Cash's recordings as well as duets with his wife.

"These songs are Johnny's final statement," said Rubin. " They are the truest reflection of the music that was central to his life at the time. This is the music that Johnny wanted us to hear."

More news for Johnny Cash

CD reviews for Johnny Cash

Koncert v Praze (In Prague-Live) CD review - Koncert v Praze (In Prague-Live)
Johnny Cash's live set was released on vinyl in Czechoslovakia in 1983. U.S. fans became aware of "Koncert v Praze (In Prague-Live)" when it was issued in the U.S. as part of the deluxe box set "Johnny Cash: The Complete Columbia Album Collection" in 2012. This marks the first time it was released as a single CD Recorded on-stage in Czechoslovakia in April 1978, - one of two recent reissues by the label of foreign concerts (the other was a Denmark show in December »»»
Man In Black: Live in Denmark 1971 CD review - Man In Black: Live in Denmark 1971
Like many icons who have since departed the planet, Johnny Cash left behind a legacy that continues to flourish - in the songs he left behind, in their interpretation by others and in the man's own recordings, which still sound as fresh and vital as they were when first released. This vintage concert offers a case in point. Recorded at the peak of his prowess, it finds him replaying his classic hits - "A Boy Named Sue," "Folsom Prison Blues," "I Walk the Line" »»»
Out Among the Stars CD review - Out Among the Stars
One would think that with all the archival music, reissues and postmortem tributes released on Johnny Cash's behalf, the vaults would have been scraped pretty clean by now, with only scraps left for dedicated completists to feast upon. So it comes as no small surprise to find that the Cash archivists actually uncovered some entire sessions that haven't been unearthed until now. Recorded in the early '80s, "Out Among The Stars" is such a high quality collection that it »»»
Editorial: Walking the talk – When names like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon and the Hag are invoked, you're talking hard core country. These are the touchstones of country , the guys who made country music what it was and still is (or maybe can be). When these folks would sing about being down-and-out and the rough-and-tumble, they knew of what they were singing about. Fast forward a few years to the country singers of today. »»»
Concert Review: Kristofferson gives insight, but no easy answers – When they say music gets better with age, they're not always just talking about songs alone; sometimes they're also referring to the listener. When Kris Kristofferson sings, "Well, I woke up Sunday morning/With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt," to smartly open "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," he... »»»
Concert Review: No sugarcoating, Welch dishes out an experience – Gillian Welch (accompanied, as always, by master guitarist David Rawlings), celebrated her "The Harrow & The Harvest" album with a powerful night of music. She apologized many times for the utter unhappiness expressed through this album's songs, admitting it's "not the most chipper album" at one point.... »»»
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