In November 2003, two months after Johnny Cash’s death, producer Rick Rubin’s American Recordings label released Unearthed, a sprawling box set including mostly previously unreleased songs recorded during the last decade of Cash’s remarkable life. Recently a reconfigured collection of the tracks from the Johnny Cash album “Unearthed” was released on vinyl for the first time.
Consisting of 79 tracks on nine high-quality 180-gram vinyl LPs, the Unearthed vinyl set will also expand the original boxed set’s distinctive packaging with a pair of cloth-bound books housed in an LP-sized black cloth slipcase. One book contains the nine LPs, while the other holds a 60-page coffee table volume incorporating Sylvie Simmons’ extensive liner notes, which were drawn from five days of interviews at Cash’s home north of Nashville. In addition, the set includes both Cash and Rubin commenting on every song featured on the set, supplemented by dozens of photographs from the recording sessions, including some of the last photos ever taken of the iconic entertainer.
Already one of the most important musical figures of the 20th century, by the time Johnny Cash had reached the final decade of his life he had embarked on a series of albums that captured him in a raw, visceral setting. Producer Rick Rubin helmed Cash’s so-called “American Recordings,” which were stripped down to bare-bones production, allowing the Arkansas native’s aging, yet wholly authoritative voice to take command of a wide variety of material, from country classics such as “Tennessee Stud,” to a number of unlikely covers, including Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage” and, of course, his definitive version of the Nine Inch Nails tune “Hurt.”
Dividing the boxed set into five thematic sections, Who’s Gonna Cry focuses on acoustic solo recordings, with Cash revisiting several classic songs from his legendary catalog. Trouble in Mind spotlights electric performances and includes guest appearances by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Carl Perkins and members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as Cash’s wife and longtime duet partner June Carter Cash. Redemption Songs is largely acoustic, and features duets with Joe Strummer, Fiona Apple, Nick Cave and Glen Campbell. My Mother’s Hymn Book demonstrates Cash’s lifelong affinity for gospel music, encompassing 15 gospel standards and Best of Cash on American culls 15 highlights from Cash’s first four albums with Rubin.