Willie Nelson, Chris Cornell, Alison Krauss and more set Johnny Cash writings to music in ‘Forever Words’

June Carter Cash and husband Johnny Cash perform in Hiltons, Va., in 2002. Johnny Cash's previously unpublished writings are the source of a new album, "Johnny Cash: Forever Words," featuring a raft of country, rock and bluegrass musicians.
(Josh Meltzer / For The Times)

Chris Cornell, Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello, Alison Krauss & Union Station and Willie Nelson are among the more than dozen major rock, pop, country and bluegrass artists contributing to an ambitious project setting recently unearthed Johnny Cash poetry, lyrics and letters to music. The resulting album, “Johnny Cash: Forever Words,” is scheduled for an April 6 release.

Kris Kristofferson, Carlene Carter, Brad Paisley, John Mellencamp, Kacey Musgraves, T Bone Burnett, Jamey Johnson, the Jayhawks, Jewel, I’m With Her, Dailey & Vincent, Robert Glasper, Ro James, Anu Sun and Ruston Kelly also are featured on the 16-track album masterminded by John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.

“He’s had people write melodies, and what I’ve heard so far is amazing,” Krauss told The Times last year.


“We did a track and had Robert Lee Castelman write the melody for it. It’s just beautiful,” she said of the song “The Captain’s Daughter,” her first new studio recording in six years with her longtime band Union Station.

The newly created songs have been recorded primarily at the Cash Family Cabin in Hendersonville, Tenn., and serve as a musical companion to a volume of Cash’s writings published in 2016, “Forever Words: The Unknown Poems.”

“Determining the artist for each song was truly a matter of the heart,” Carter Cash said in a statement. “I picked the artists who are most connected with my father, who had a personal story that was connected with dad. It became an exciting endeavor to go through these works, to put them together and present them to different people who could finish them in a way that I believed that dad would have wanted.”

The album will be released on CD, as a two-LP vinyl double album and on digital formats.

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