Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin are doing the final mixes on Cash's next album, American IV: When the Man Comes Around, their fourth recording together. Cash has recorded twenty-six songs for the album, which will be whittled down to nearly half by its release, tentatively set for September.
The album will be Cash's first since the Grammy-winning American III: Solitary Man. His work with Rubin dates back to his 1994 comeback album, American Recordings, on which a solo Cash recorded a handful of his own songs, along with covers of tracks by Tom Waits, Nick Lowe and Glenn Danzig. Cash and Rubin have been taking on songs by an eclectic group of writers since. Beck's "Rowboat" and Tom Petty's "Southern Accents" were placed alongside more traditional songs by the likes of the Louvin Brothers on 1996's Unchained. And Neil Diamond provided the title track to Cash's last record, which also included his take on songs by Nick Cave ("The Mercy Seat"), U2 ("One") and Will Oldham ("I See a Darkness").
Cash collaborator Marty Stuart told Rolling Stone that the title track of the new collection is "the most strangely marvelous, wonderful, gothic, mysterious, Christian thing that only God and Johnny Cash could create together." In addition to that track Stuart also played on a cover of Sting's "I Hung My Head," which is among the other songs being considered for inclusion." Takes on the Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt," Marty Robbins' "Big Iron" and Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" have also been recorded for American IV. "There's something for everyone on this one," says Cash's manager Lou Robbin.
This year, Cash's seventieth, has been a busy one. In March, Columbia/Legacy began a reissue program of some classic Cash recordings: The Fabulous Johnny Cash (1958), Hymns by Johnny Cash (1959), Ride This Train (1960), Orange Blossom Special (1965) and Carryin' On (1967). Legacy will continue to roll out the reissues later this year with four albums repackaged with bonus tracks and new liner notes: Songs of Our Soil (1959), Sings Ballads of the True West (1965), The Johnny Cash Show (1970) and Silver (1979). The four albums are due on September 3rd along with Live at Madison Square Garden, a previously unreleased concert from New York City in 1969. Carl Perkins joined longtime Cash bassist Marshall Grant and drummer W.S. Holland for the set.
In April, Cash was honored with the National Medal of the Arts in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. He will also be the subject of a pair of tribute albums. The first, due this summer, features Cash compositions recorded by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Little Richard, Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Steve Earle and others. "'I Walk the Line,' 'Folsom Prison,' they were all cut right the first time," project organizer/producer Stuart said. "The only reason I can think of for this project is that those of us who know him and love him, we just bring our best to his feet and honor him. It's a record of honor."
The second tribute, Dressed in Black, is scheduled for a September 10th release, with Hank Williams III, Rodney Crowell, the Mavericks' Raul Malo, the Rev. Horton Heat, Mandy Barnett, Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison, and Robbie Fulks among the contributors.