"Out Among The Stars", which Cash, who died in 2003, recorded
with legendary Nashville producer Billy Sherrill, will be
released by Sony next week and includes duets with Cash's late
wife, June Carter Cash, and Waylon Jennings.
The songs were never released in any form by Cash's label,
Columbia, now owned by Sony, and were only rediscovered in 2012
when Cash's son, John Carter Cash, who has written extensively
about his late parents, was cataloguing their archives.
"Originally produced by Billy Sherrill in 1984 and a couple of
songs in '81, they exhibited my father and showed his creativity
in a period of his life when not as many people knew about this
music," Cash told Reuters on a recent trip to London.
At the time "Out Among The Stars" was recorded, country music
was moving away from the sound that made Cash popular toward the
"countrypolitan" style championed by Garth Brooks.
Cash also endured a difficult personal struggle with drug
addiction and being dropped by Columbia in 1986.
After he was let go by the label, "Out Among The Stars" remained
in the vaults and was subsequently forgotten.
"Something that specifically worked for Johnny Cash was not what
Columbia was interested in at the time, sadly. I believe they
made a bad mistake and they didn't have the vision. However, you
can look at it in different ways," Cash said.
"There was a string of Johnny Cash records that came out through
that time period that weren't getting attention. Perhaps if it
had been released it wouldn't have the same songs and it would
have been just another record," he added.
"I don't think he was jealous of the other artists who were
succeeding at the time period. It was not time for Johnny Cash
to stand out in the light because the world around just wasn't
as cool as he was."
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"FIGURE OF MYSTERY"
The last decade has seen a resurgence in fortunes for the 'Man in
Black', more than 10 years after his death. Much of this is due to
the release of a series of "American" albums produced by Rick Rubin,
the success of Cash's cover of the Nine Inch Nails track "Hurt" and
the global success of the biopic "Walk the Line" starring Joaquin
Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.
Cash's son also believes part of his father's enduring popularity
can be put down to his enigmatic personality.
"He endures because he's also a figure of mystery," he said.
Releasing the album was a not a simple decision for Cash, who said
that he has to consider whether the album is individual and distinct
enough to add to the Johnny Cash canon.
"It's a matter of integrity and spirit. You know, it's something
beautiful and it's a personal connection with the family ... I think
I would make a lot more people angry by not releasing this beautiful
work than by putting it out," he said.
When he heard the songs for the first time in 2012, Cash was able to
recall the recordings taking place when he was in the studio in the
1980s. He was also reminded of the work he did with his father in
helping to produce his final albums.
There wasn't only music in the Cash archive as the couple were keen
collectors of antique furniture and ancient books. They even stored
away the keys they had been given to the cities of North America and
a camel saddle from Saudi Arabia.
"There is more music. There are full records," Cash added. "The
question is, is this something he would want released?"
"I have to be very careful, very thoughtful, and always will be. But
I believe there's more that's worthy of release and that he would
want the world to hear," he said.
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Gareth Jones)
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