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Review: "Johnny Cash: Forever Words" - Various Artists

by Andy Snipper,

Johnny Cash left a wealth of material unpublished - writings, poems and letters - when he passed away in 2003 and this album collects new performances of his material from a wide variety of artists including the likes of Chris Cornell, Kacey Musgraves, Rosanne Cash, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Kris Kristofferson & Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello.

The sheer quality of the recordings is remarkable, just about every number is performed with terrific presence and emotion and it brings home just how much Johhny Cash gave to the world of music in all his different guises.

Just about every track takes hold of the imagination whether it is played in Cash’s own style or in a folk or Blues or even something like Robert Glasper Feat. Ro James covering ‘Goin’, Goin’, Goin’ with electro beats and rap styling.

The album starts with a standout - Kris Kristofferson & Willy Nelson duetting on ‘Forever/I Still Miss Someone’, 47 seconds of desperately beautiful guitar and Kristofferson’s gravel voice that simply shout out to be played again and again. Then leading into a lovely banjo & harmonies from Ruston Kelly & Kacey Musgraves.

Proof that music does not need to be overproduced and in your face.

Chris Cornell sings ‘You Never Knew My Mind’ in a way that is eerily reminiscent of the great man himself during the American Recordings period while Alison Krauss & Union Station add a folk touch on ‘The Captain’s Daughter’ with Krauss’ haunting vocal chilling the soul.

T-Bone Burnett brings the classic Country Blues of Cash’s early days while John Mellencamp has his own tear up on ‘Them Double Blues’ sounding as though Cash was standing on his shoulder.

My personal favourite has to be Roseanne Cash performing ‘The Walking Wounded’ just for the sheer beauty of her vocal and the sadness of the words.

Johnny Cash was a giant in American music and these recordings show much of why he is so highly regarded by anyone who actually understands music and its importance.

It ain’t perfect but it sure is wonderful.