The sprawling five-disc Johnny Cash box set "Unearthed" arrives this week from American Recordings/Lost Highway, featuring 79 songs, 64 of them previously unreleased and produced by Rick Rubin during sessions for their four "American Recordings" albums. Cash died Sept. 12 from complications related to diabetes at the age of 71.
The first three discs feature such finds as solo acoustic versions of "Long Black Veil" and "Flesh and Blood," and covers of Steve Earle's "Devil's Right Hand," Roy Orbison's "Down the Line" and the Neil Young songs "Heart of Gold" and "Pocahontas."
Discs two and three boast several duets, some with old friends and others with newer acquaintances. On the veteran side, Cash's former Sun Records labelmate Carl Perkins joins him for a run through the familiar "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" while his bandmate in the Highwaymen, Willie Nelson, shows up on "Like a Soldier." Glen Campbell sings with Cash on "Gentle on My Mind."
Skewing away from his contemporaries, late Clash lead singer Joe Strummer joins Cash on a version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" and Tom Petty appears on "The Running Kind." Fiona Apple also sings "Father and Son" with him and Nick Cave joins in on "Cindy."
The fourth "Unearthed" disc is subtitled "My Mother's Hymn Book," and is comprised of 15 songs from a book of hymns Cash's mother read to him as a child. Via solo acoustic performances, the deeply spiritual artist revisits such songs as "I Shall Not Be Moved," "Do Lord," "If We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven" and "In the Sweet By and By."
The final disc is a "best of" representation of the four albums Cash released with Rubin at the helm: 1994's "American Recordings," 1996's "Unchained," 2000's "American III: Solitary Man" and last year's "American IV: The Man Comes Around."