Unearthed

In one of the most inspired pairings of producer and artist in recorded music history, Rick Rubin and Johnny Cash found each other at the right time for both. In this posthumous collection primarily o

In one of the most inspired pairings of producer and artist in recorded music history, Rick Rubin and Johnny Cash found each other at the right time for both. In this posthumous collection primarily of cuts culled from a remarkably prolific 1994-2003 collaboration, the depth of Cash's artistry and Rubin's support become even more impressive. Not only a profound songwriter, Cash was also a fearless interpreter of his own and others' work, with no limits whatsoever. At nearly 80 cuts over five CDs (four discs comprise previously unreleased material, the fifth is a single-disc best-of), "Unearthed" is too expansive for the space allowed here, though some cuts are impossible to ignore, such as his indictment of self-righteousness, "No Earthly Good," Billy Joe Shaver's humble "I Give My Soul," Neil Young's eerie "Pocahontas," Merle Haggard's "The Running Kind" (with Tom Petty), Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" (with Joe Strummer), Marty Robbins' "Big Iron" and a weary "Just As I Am" from the disc titled "My Mother's Hymn Book" that Cash had long wanted to release. Packaged with care and lovingly annotated, this is true art, and we all owe Rick Rubin big-time for unearthing it.—RW



DEBORAH GIBSON