Johnny Cash - Songwriter

Johnny Cash – Songwriter (Album Review)

It has been almost 70 years since Johnny Cash wrote and recorded “I Walk the Line ” in 1956. Nicknamed the Man in Black, he would come into the Country music scene after signing with Sun Records in 1954 (same year as Elvis Presley)’ though not releasing a song until 1955 with “Folsom Prison Blues.” Interestingly enough, while “I Walk the Line” became his first hit (staying there for over 43 weeks), “Folsom Prison Blues,” which was not nearly as popular, solidified Cash as anything but ordinary. What does this all mean? It means that Johnny Cash is a singing and songwriting legend with qualities that will always make him standout.

Amazingly now gone for over twenty years, passing away at 71 years old back in September of 2003, his legacy only continues to grow. Beloved by longtime fans forever and always, even younger generations adore him at this point after being turned onto his brilliance with the popular 2005 Biopic Drama Walk the Line. Truly amazing to see how Cash’s music has remained in the forefront of culture, he wrote and recorded so much, there actually has been quite a bit of albums put out there even after his death. In fact, 2006 saw the release of American V: A Hundred Highways, an album Cash recorded just prior to passing away with Rick Rubin. This was followed by American VI: Ain’t No Grave emerged in 2010; also, from the same 2003 Rubin sessions. However, in 2014 we had Out Among the Stars, which was an album put together from early ‘80s recordings that were thought to be lost. Now in 2024 another posthumous chapter is written with the release of Songwriter.

Released on June 28, 2024 through Mercury Nashville/UMe, Songwriter marks the 72nd studio from Cash and fifth posthumous. Nothing less than astounding, but also inspiring, the album features songs recorded in early 1993 when he was not signed onto a label. A time right before he connected with Rick Rubin, the story goes, the songs featured on Songwriter were written over several decades, but had been shelved. Unknown to the mainstream, thirty-some-odd years later Johnny and June Carter Cash’s son, John Carter Cash, dusted off the tapes; cutting them down to just his dad’s voice and an acoustic guitar. From here a handpicked group of players, several who worked with Johnny Cash, were invited to play on the tracks.

A cool and haunting idea, what became is the 11-track collection that is Songwriter. Anchored by the lead single “Well Alright,” running at over six minutes, it is only the tip of the iceberg, because after all, finding love at a laundromat can only be told right by Cash himself. A great way to reacquaint yourself with the Man in Black, Songwriter as a whole is exactly what you would expect from the enigmatic musician.

As mentioned, numerous musicians lent a hand to make this album an epic one and the fact that Johnny’s son is the one responsible for breathing life into this album, makes it that much better. Not to overlook the aforementioned talents, contributing on the songs include Guitarist Marty Stuart, late Bassist Dave Roe, and Drummer Pete Abbott, but also inclusion of Ana Cristina Cash onsome background vocals.

With so many reasons that this album is a must listen, personal favorites will include the hopeless romantic’s anthem “I Love You Tonight,” plus “Soldier Boy,” which is reminiscent of his early recordings with Sun Records. This is while “Drive On” Cash can share his story singing as well as he can write one.  

Overall, Songwriter will remind you why you became a Johnny Cash fan in the first place. As a point of reference, this new album will have you thinking about 2002’s American IV: The Man Comes Around; which was Cash’s last album before his passing. Bringing it back to the start, it will also remind you of that old classic “Folsom Prison Blues.” In the end there is no doubt that Songwriter will be a hit and be loved by fans the world over, and that is why Cryptic Rock gives it 5 out of 5 stars.

Johnny Cash - Songwriter
Johnny Cash – Songwriter / Mercury Nashville / UMe

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