Chris Cornell and Jamey Johnson will appear on a new album that sets the poems of Johnny Cash to music. Titled Johnny Cash Forever Words: The Music, the project is the brainchild of Cash’s son John Carter Cash, who confirmed the album in an email to Rolling Stone.
Johnson spoke about the project in an interview with the blog Kentucky Country Music last week. “John Carter has a good number of poems that Johnny wrote. I say poems because they don’t have music to them,” Johnson said. “He’s working on an album where he’s pairing up these songs with songwriters from our day to finish up these Johnny Cash songs. One of them that I know he’s most proud of and you can’t get it anymore – he’s got Chris Cornell having finished one of these songs and then recorded it. I’m excited for it to come out. I got to do a couple of them.”
Brad Paisley was among the first to set one of Cash’s poems to song. “If you’re ever down, I’d give you rows of roses and gold all over the ground,” he sings in “Gold All Over the Ground,” a track recorded for Paisley’s new album Love and War. John Carter Cash calls that session the “precursor to this project.”
Late last year, John Carter Cash released a book of his father’s poems, Forever Words: The Unknown Poems, a collection of 41 writings by the Man in Black. “My father was a very prolific writer and he left behind a huge body of unpublished work,” he told Rolling Stone Country then. Along with Cornell and Johnson, Paisley, Jewel, T Bone Burnett, Dailey & Vincent, and Kacey Musgraves and Ruston Kelly are also on the album.
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The inclusion of Cornell is particularly poignant in light of the Soundgarden singer’s death on May 17th. It also brings the relationship between the two disparate vocalists full circle: Cash recorded a version of the Cornell composition “Rusty Cage” for his 1996 album Unchained.
A release date for Johnny Cash Forever Words: The Music has yet to be announced.