“Hello out there, this is planet Earth, calling. Hello out there, our net worth is falling.”

Those are the first words on “Songwriter” and considering Johnny Cash wrote the thing in 1993 it’s upsetting how relevant they still are.

Which brings us to what these 11 songs are.

In the early 90s, Johnny Cash was between record deals – which proves that even before Spotify the musical landscape made no sense – and he recorded these 11 songs, intending to turn them into an album, but before he could release them he met Rick Rubin, and history was altered.

John Carter Cash found the tapes, stripped them down to bare bones of just his dad’s guitar and vocals, handpicked some players that had played with Johnny including guitarist Marty Stuart and the late bassist Dave Roe, along with drummer Pete Abbott and several others, and they assembled at the Cash Cabin.

Now we’re all up to speed. All that you need to know beyond that is that the results are here, and they are wonderful.

The aforementioned opener, “Spotlight” has an incredible, yet natural,  melancholy and by the time he’s got even more introspective on “Drive On”, offering the line: “It don’t mean nothin’, my children love me,” you are reminded that essentially no one speaks his lyrics like this – and you are listening to something close to poetry.

Hearing him as reflective as this on “I Love You Tonite”, wrapped up in the classic country sound, is especially poignant in the circumstances, “when it’s all over, I don’t want you to be alone” he sings to his wife.

“Have You Ever Been To Little Rock” celebrates his community, his people, but what is it with geniuses and launderettes? “Well Alright” finds him in one and it’s the weirdest – and dirtiest  – thing here. Rory Gallagher’s “Laundromat” this is not.

“She Sang Sweet Baby James” is typical not just of Cash, but of the work of timeless beauty, the same as “Poor Valley Girl” or “Soldier Boy”. Put simply. If you don’t like these you don’t like country, and more than that, there’ll be plenty here that don’t like country that love this.

 It transcends. It’s got what’s called “cut through” in news terms. He’d not lost the ability to look at things differently, either. “Sing It Pretty Sue” is a break-up song from a strange perspective, but it’s glorious. Hell, they’re all glorious.

 “Like A Soldier” is so poetic, so beautiful, and you imagine deeply personal. “Will we make the millennium?  well, we might”, he muses, but whatever, these songs live on. They sort of had to

There are only two sorts of people said Marty Stuart once. “People that like Johnny Cash and those who will”.

This underlines that thought in bold. He’s the most incredible “Songwriter”.

Rating 9/10

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