Unearthed Johnny Cash Demos from 1993 Set for Release as New Album

Eleven previously unreleased songs by Johnny Cash recorded as demos in 1993 but never fully realized, are set to finally debut on a new album titled Songwriter, scheduled for release on June 28.

Alongside the announcement, a single titled Well Alright was disclosed today: a sassy, swaggering track about desire amidst laundry, featuring a classic Cash opening couplet: “I met her at the laundromat, she was washing extra hot / I said don’t you need a little help with that big load you got?”

Johnny Cash Demos Reimagined with Star-Studded Collaboration

The demos have been transformed into completed versions, with guest appearances by country singer Vince Gill and rock band the Black Keys.

Johnny Cash, with Takamine acoustic guitar, recording in the home studio. (Photo by Beth Gwinn/Redferns)

These songs were brought to life by a skilled team of musicians who previously collaborated with Cash, including guitarist Marty Stuart, drummer Pete Abbott, and – before his passing in 2023 – upright bassist Dave Roe. Cash’s original vocal performances from the demo recordings have been seamlessly integrated into the new arrangements.

Cash’s son John Carter Cash collaborated on the project as co-producer, alongside David “Fergie” Ferguson, the studio engineer who worked with Rick Rubin to record Cash’s memorable suite of songs towards the end of his life, American Recordings.

“Nobody plays Cash better than Marty Stuart, and Dave Roe of course played with Dad for many years,” John Carter Cash expressed. “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’s Unfinished Album Journey

The demos were of songs Cash had written over several years before 1993, while he was between recording contracts.

Before he could develop them into a complete album, he met Rubin and went into the American Recordings project, which featured Cash’s compositions alongside modern song standards by Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen, and unexpected cover versions of artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Danzig, and Bonnie “Prince” Billy.

Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash as “The Million Dollar Quartet”. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Cash passed away in 2003 from complications due to diabetes, following the release of the fourth American Recordings album the previous year.

Opening track ‘Hello Out There’

The opening track of the new album, Hello Out There, sees Cash expressing concerns about the state of the world, singing: “Hello out there, this is planet Earth calling calling calling calling calling / Hello out there, our net worth is falling falling falling falling falling”.

He also went through his personal struggles on Drive On – which originated during chronic pain following a broken jaw in the early 1990s – and Like a Soldier, which reflects on his battle with drug addiction. “It’s something that he wrote after his first stint in a recovery center – he felt like he was like a soldier getting over a war,” John Carter Cash explained.

American country singer Johnny Cash (1932 – 2003) appears at the Grand Gala du Disque in Amsterdam. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

I Love You Tonite was penned as a love song for his wife June Carter Cash, while Poor Valley Girl – featuring vocals from Gill – is a tribute to June and her fellow country musician and mother Maybelle Carter.

Cash pays homage to James Taylor on She Sang Sweet Baby James, his home state of Arkansas on Have You Been to Little Rock?, and revisits a Cash song from 1962, Sing It Pretty, Sue. Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys contributes a guitar solo on the song Spotlight.

Promotional materials for the album promise tracks covering themes of “love, family, sorrow, beauty, spiritual salvation, survival, redemption, and of course, some of the lighthearted humor Johnny was known for”.

Arit Saha
Arit Saha
Arit Saha, an Economics graduate and budding content writer in Kolkata, deftly merges his passions for economics and global politics. He crafts engaging content weaving economic insights into geopolitical narratives. Contact: [email protected]
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