Gone but not for­got­ten

All-star cast pays trib­ute to Johnny Cash on di­verse new al­bum

Kingston Whig-Standard - - ENTERTAINMENT - JANE STEVEN­SON

It seems ap­pro­pri­ate to John Carter Cash that one of Chris Cor­nell’s last solo record­ings would be on a trib­ute al­bum to his fa­ther Johnny Cash. Cor­nell, who died last year, recorded You Never Knew My Mind, on Johnny Cash: For­ever Words, The Mu­sic, a new com­pi­la­tion co-pro­duced by Carter Cash.

The disc finds an all-star ros­ter of coun­try, rock and R&B artists record­ing vo­cals and set­ting mu­sic to The Man in Black’s words. Specif­i­cally, the ma­te­rial is un­re­leased po­etry, lyrics, and let­ters dis­cov­ered by his son af­ter Cash died in 2003.

“(Chris and I), had met orig­i­nally back in the mid ’90s back­stage at one of my fa­ther’s shows in Seat­tle,” said Carter Cash.

“And Chris came up to me and said, ‘Your fa­ther has in­flu­enced my life and my artistry more than prob­a­bly any other artist I can name.’ So that stuck with me and I knew he would want to see some­thing. And so Chris, when I reached out to him, he was very ex­cited.”

We caught up with Carter Cash in Toronto re­cently.

Q: How would you de­scribe Cor­nell’s ap­proach to this project?

A: I think he knew that if he did not be hon­est about it, it would not work. (whis­pers) He cer­tainly was. I mean from the mo­ment that I heard that song, he sent me a demo, it was a MP3, it re­ally, re­ally just got straight to my heart, the first time I heard it. We de­vel­oped a ca­ma­raderie of sorts, a friend­ship of sorts, even through the process, and he was like a lion with a thorn in his side. He was such a sweet guy.

Q: So his death a year later was a to­tal shock to you?

A: Yeah, it was. The last text I got from Chris it was just days be­fore he died. (He seemed happy), on the sur­face. ‘How are you do­ing with the tour?’ He was out on the road with Soundgar­den, of course. ‘Oh, it’s great, it’s great.’ And he sort of com­pared it to be­ing back in his younger days in some way.

Q: What was the gen­e­sis of Johnny’s words for Cor­nell’s song?

A: Back in 1967, You Never Knew My Mind, was sort of a good­bye, for­lorn song to his first wife Vi­vian.

Q: How much of your fa­ther’s writ­ings did you go through to boil it down to the 16 songs on the new al­bum?

A: Out of the amassed amount of 300 some pieces there were 60 or 70 that were very strong and there were some that I be­lieved he would want to share or that I be­lieved worked per­fectly for an­other artist.

Q: Why use many artists of many gen­res for this record?

A: My dad was full of mu­si­cal diver­sity. Some would ar­gue he had a big hit with the first rap song with A Boy Named Sue (1969). Some might say he’s rock ‘n roll ‘cause he started rock n’ roll with those guys (Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Or­bi­son), at Sun Records. Some would say, ‘Well, what’s rock n’ roll?’ He’s not that, he’s coun­try. And I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think Dad was open to it in the first place. And the proof’s in the pud­ding. In the way he lived his life. He recorded a Nine Inch Nail song (Hurt in 2002). And he recorded (Soundgar­den’s) Rusty Cage (in 1996).

Q: Who was the most fun to pro­duce?

A: (Elvis) Costello is a vi­sion­ary. And, in par­tic­u­lar, he was good friends with my dad and so WWJCD (What Would Johnny Cash Do)? I don’t know but some­times I do. And I think he would have let Elvis do it on his own. I think all but five of (the 16), tracks were done at The Cash Cabin Stu­dio (in Hen­der­son­ville, Tenn.)

Q: And we ac­tu­ally get to hear your dad’s voice speak­ing on the Robert Glasper song Goin’Goin’Gone. Why that song?

A: Cre­atively, it was sug­gested. And so I fig­ured if he was go­ing to be on the al­bum him­self, it’d have to be him speak­ing about some­thing that was very pro­found — a pro­found mes­sage that he would want to re­late — the dark­nesses of ad­dic­tion. He would def­i­nitely speak out on that.

GETTY FILES

Johnny Cash is seen per­form­ing in Oc­to­ber, 1971. Cash’s son, John Carter Cash, is putting to­gether a trib­ute al­bum to his fa­ther fea­tur­ing artists like Chris Cor­nell and Elvis Costello per­form­ing un­re­leased songs and po­etry from Cash, who died in 2003.

John Carter Cash

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