Continuing its yearlong celebration of Johnny Cash’s 70th birthday, Columbia Legacy has scheduled four more of the country music veteran classic albums for reissue in its “American Milestones” series, along with a previously unreleased 1969 concert recording. Due Sept. 3, “Live at Madison Square Garden” will accompany remastered versions of 1959’s “Songs of Our Soil,” 1965’s “Sings Ballads of the True West,” 1970’s “The Johnny Cash Show,” and 1979’s “Silver.”
Recorded Dec. 5, 1969 in front of a crowd of 21,000, “Live at Madison Square Garden” featured the Man in Black backed by his longtime band of the era — Bob Wooten on electric guitar, Marshall Grant on bass, and W.S. Holland behind the drum kit. In addition, the show featured Carl Perkins on guitar and vocals, and Doug Kershaw on fiddle, as well as vocals by the Statler Brothers and the Carter Family (Mother Maybelle, Helen, and Anita). It’s notable that the show did not feature Cash’s wife, June Carter Cash, as she was expecting the couple’s first child at the time.
A final track listing for the concert release has not yet been determined, nor has the lineup of bonus tracks for the four reissued studio albums.
In February, Columbia Legacy released a two-disc career spanning compilation, “The Essential Johnny Cash,” and followed in March with a quintet of reissued vintage titles. Those albums — 1959’s “The Fabulous Johnny Cash,” 1959’s “Hymns by Johnny Cash,” 1960’s “Ride This Train: A Stirring Travelogue of America in Song and Story,” 1965’s “Orange Blossom Special,” and 1967’s “Carryin’ On With Johnny Cash and June Carter” — were each digitally remastered, and boasted the inclusion of bonus tracks from the period of the original recording sessions, as well as the original and newly commissioned liner notes.
September will yield a pair of Cash tribute albums. The first, titled “Dressed In Black,” will be issued Sept. 10 by Nashville-based independent label Dualtone Records. The 18-track set was co-produced by longtime Cash bass player Dave Roe and BR5-49’s guitarist/vocalist Chuck Mead, and features renditions of Cash classics by Hank Williams III, Raul Malo, Rodney Crowell, Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison, Reverend Horton Heat, Robbie Fulks, Kenny Vaughan, and Mandy Barnett.
On Sept. 24, Sony Nashville will release its long-awaited homage, “Kindred Spirits: A Tribute to the Songs of Johnny Cash.” Produced by the artist’s former guitarist and son-in-law Marty Stuart, the album will feature contributions from Bruce Springsteen, Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle, Shelby Lynne, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, and Travis Tritt, among others.
Earlier this year Cash told Billboard that his next studio album, “American Four,” is due out this summer. As was the case with his last three albums, he recorded the set with producer Rick Rubin, who will release it through his American Recordings imprint. “These records have meant everything to me,” he says. “The last 10 years I’ve been working with Rick — it’s been like a new lease on life.”
Cash recorded the set at his home in Jamaica, where he has recuperated from bouts with bronchitis, a symptom of autonomic neuropathy, a disease of the nervous system that makes him susceptible to pneumonia. “I think — I hope and pray — that all the pneumonia is behind me,” Cash said about the condition that has hospitalized him four times since 1998. “It almost devastated me. Now I’m mending, and gaining strength every day and feeling good.”