Photo Credit: Alan Messer

This summer, an unheard album from the great Johnny Cash will see public release after three decades in the vault. Set to arrive on June 28 via Mercury Nashville/UMe, Songwriter comprises 11 songs written by Cash through his first four decades of performance, pairing entries from his early outlaw era with then-new compositions for a portrait of the artist’s prowess on paper. Cash recorded and shelved the project in 1993, where it remained until being uncovered by John Carter Cash brought to bear with a dream team of the legend’s former collaborators and present devotees. As a first taste, the Cash estate has released the preview single “Well Alright.”

Cash put Songwriter to tape at LSI Studios in Nashville, Tenn., while unsigned and unclear on the future of his music. Following a relapse and a series of terminated contracts, the artist endeavored to reclaim control of his story with his song. This session was only months before the artist joined Rick Rubin for American Recordings, which would ultimately supplant his independent venture as the first step in his late-career resurgence. Upon digging up the demos for this forgotten project, John Carter enlisted producer and American series collaborator David R. Ferguson to help present this powerful pivot point in Cash’s career, where the star’s dark night of the soul was cast away by a return to the spotlight.

“Well Alright” is well-suited to honor Cash’s voice, sharing a slice of life with his trademark grounded, folksy wit and keen eye for social convention. Warm electric twangs lead a shuffling, locomotive backbeat, courtesy of former bandmates guitarist Marty Stuart, drummer Pete Abbott and late bassist Dave Roe. Other contributors to the new arrangements supporting Cash include Vince Gill, who sings on “Poor Valley Girl,” and Dan Auerbach, who adds a guitar solo to “Spotlight.” This most exciting crossover here comes from the late legend Waylon Jennings, who shares duets with Cash on “I Love You Tonite” and album closer “Like a Soldier.”

“The musicians that came in were just tracking with Dad,” John Carter shares on the album’s completion. “[Y]ou know, recording with Dad, just as, in the case of Marty and Dave, they had many times before, so 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.”

Songwriter is available to pre-order now. Watch the official visualizer for “Well Alright” below, and read on for the album’s complete tracklist.

Johnny Cash – Songwriter Tracklist

  1. Hello Out There
  2. Spotlight
  3. Drive On
  4. I Love You Tonite
  5. Have You Ever Been to Little Rock?
  6. Well Alright
  7. She Sang Sweet Baby James
  8. Poor Valley Girl
  9. Soldier Boy
  10. Sing It Pretty Sue
  11. Like A Soldier