One of Chris Cornell‘s final musical acts could come on an upcoming collection of Johnny Cash poems put to music. Jamey Johnson revealed that he and Cornell both participated in sessions for Johnny Cash Forever Words: The Music, which is being organized by Cash’s son, John Carter Cash.
Johnson revealed some details about the album in a recent interview with the Kentucky Country Music blog in which he said that John Carter has a number of poems that the late country giant wrote but never turned into songs. “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,” said Johnson of the in-process album, which Rolling Stone got a confirmation on from John Carter. 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.”
The Cornell connection makes sense given that Cash recorded a version of Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage” for his 1996 album of Rick Rubin-produced covers, American II: Unchained, which also featured the country legend taking on songs by Beck, Tom Petty, Hank Snow, Don Gibson, Jimmie Rodgers, Dean Martin and Spain.
Johnson said it was exciting to sit down with the poems and try to flesh them out into song. “Part of it was just really cool to get this lyric in that we didn’t have a second verse to,” he said of working with Cash’s son. “So, John Carter and I sat down and wrote a second verse. The way we did it was by creating something akin to a painter’s palette. Where instead of colors on the palette, we put words on the palette out of context and took words that he used when writing his first verse. We just added words that fit the palette that’s similar the words and we took those words and built a second verse out of those words so that it’s still the same context and continues to the story. Of course, the music, it just kind of washes over. It’s what I think Johnny, in the same vein of what Johnny would sing. If I was writing with Johnny Cash, it wouldn’t be any different I don’t think unless he had something really awesome to consider. It was really fun to do that. I know that John Carter is really excited about to put that out.”
Rolling Stone reported that in addition to Johnson and Cornell, Brad Paisley, Jewel, T Bone Burnett, Dailey & Vincent, Kacey Musgraves and Ruston Kelly are also slated for the album; no release date has been announced for the album. John Carter, a singer/songwriter/producer and the only son of Johnny and June Carter Cash, has been actively keeping his father’s legacy alive, including with last year’s book of the Man in Black’s poems, Forever Words: The Unknown Poems, which brought together 41 previously unreleased verses by his father.