Just two months after Johnny Cash’s death in 2003, a piece of Americana and musical history was released. The monumental 4 CD Boxset, Unearthed, contained outtakes and alternate versions of songs that didn’t make it onto Johnny Cash’s American Recording trilogy set. While some boxsets will notoriously contain scratchy demos or songs clearly so sub-standard that we understand why they didn’t make it onto the finished record. But these Johnny Cash recordings are “GOLD”. Produced by the legendary Rick Rubin, “Unearthed” adds to Johnny’s legacy even after his death. Disc 4 is a collection of hymns and spiritual songs that Johnny learned from his mother. The entire disc is simply Johnny and his acoustic guitar.
Three songs stand out as highlights on the first 3 discs. Johnny’s cover of Neil Young’s “Heart Of Gold” is incredible. What makes the song even more memorable is the upbeat backing band for the track, none other than the Red Hot Chili Peppers! Guitarist, John Frusciante, Flea on Bass, and Chad Smith on drummers all pump new energy into the track that seem to push Johnny ever harder.
“HEART OF GOLD” with the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Disc 3 features a cover of Bob Marley’s spiritual anthem, “Redemption Song”. The Man In Black’s aging voice adds a new perspective to the timeless lyrics. But what a surprise hearing Johnny’s duet partner. Joe Strummer of The Clash trades verses with Johnny. If Bob Marley were still alive, he would 100% approve of these two musical giants singing his song.
“REDEMPTION SONG” with Joe Strummer of The Clash
Lastly, Johnny takes a stab at the greatest country tearjerker of all-time. No one can touch George Jones on his ultimate hit, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, but Johnny’s version runs a very close second. The authenticity of hearing such a vital country classic being interpreted in this way is jaw-dropping. Johnny and George had such a close relationship through the years that I’m sure George would be proud to hear Johnny’s version.
“HE STOPPED LOVING HER TODAY”