Album Review: Johnny Cash – Forever Words (2018)

The sad news that it has been 1 year since the passing of Chris Cornell prompted this review since it contains what may very well be his last recording.

This album is a tribute album of sorts. It is a collection of never released poems, lyrics and letters that Johnny Cash had wrote over the years. His son, John Carter Cash invited musicians from different musical backgrounds to sing the songs here on this album. A lot of the album was recorded in a studio that was previously a cabin Johnny had built for June Carter Cash, perhaps giving it some of that old time Johnny Cash sound. I bought the Barnes and Noble exclusive 2 lp white vinyl version. This version also contains an exclusive litho of handwritten lyrics by Johnny Cash.

Forever/I Still Miss Someone – This “duet” with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson is a let down. It is Willie strumming a guitar and Kris speaking the words of the poem. It is only 47 seconds long. To me having 2 legends on one song and neither singing a note is a real shame.

To June This Morning – I don’t know who Ruston Kelly or Kacey Musgraves are, but they seem to suit this song. Their voices work well together and the gentle guitar string plucking sounds really good.

Gold All Over The Ground – Brad Paisley fits into the “new country” but don’t let that turn you off. I never really paid much attention to him before, but perhaps that was a mistake. I probably won’t run out and buy all of his albums, but after hearing this I might try out one.

You Never Knew My Mind – I have heard this one a few times lately but today it really has a special meaning. Chris’ voice is in peak form here. Many of his songs have a heavy rock background that he has to belt over, but this one just has a light guitar and that allows his amazing vocals to really shine. If this is the last song we ever hear from Chris, at least it is a great one.

The Captain’s Daughter – Alison Krauss and Union Station really hit this one out of the park. If you have ever heard her sing, you know how wonderful she sounds. This one will not disappoint fans, and may convert the newbies.

Jellico Coal Man – T Bone Burnett has an amazing resume, but perhaps his work on the amazing soundtrack albums O Brother, Where Art Though and (maybe even more fitting) Walk The Line earned him the right to record a song on this album. The guitar work especially is the bomb.

The Walking Wounded – Johnny’s daughter Roseanne gives a really good performance on this haunting song.

Them Double Blues – John Mellencamp (don’t call me Cougar) gives his Midwestern America spin on this one. Some people consider him a poor mans Springsteen, but I have always loved his music. His voice is deeper and more gruff than what you remember from his 80’s heyday. It has an almost Kris Kristofferson sound. This almost makes up for the lack of Kris singing earlier. The harmonica, violin and background vocals are all welcome additions here.

Body On Body – Jewel was never an artist I gave much credit to. She seemed to be more famous as a judge on tv music shows than as a musical artist. However, she has been nominated for 4 Grammy awards and has sold over 30 million albums. She does do a commendable job here, and I can say she does have a nice voice.

I’ll Still Love You – Instead of pumping it up, Elvis Costello tones it down on this piano number that has a few imperfect vocals. His vocal strains are very welcomed as far as I am concerned.

June’s Sundown – June Carter Cash’s daughter Carlene Carter sings a tribute to her mother wrote by her step dad, Johnny. it sounds like she smoked a pack of menthols before singing this one. I hope they were low tar.

He Bore It All – I have no idea who Dailey And Vincent are. They seem like a throw back to the late 70’s vocal harmony country bands such as Oak Ridge Boys. It’s a nice throwback song that gets your toes tapping. I sure hated those songs back in the day emitting from my parents radio, but enough years have passed and I quite liked this one.

I’m With Her – Chinky Pin Hill is another name I have never heard. These three ladies suit this album very well. The song almost has an old time Western tv show or movie soundtrack feel to it.

Goin’, Goin, Gone – Robert Glasper featuring Ro James and Anu Sun. More people I have never heard of. Ummm…wtf is this?? On a Johnny Cash album?? This is an electronic/soul/modern pop number. The vocals sound real familiar though. This dude Ro James sounds like a resurrected Prince. He is definitely someone I will look into. The song also has a sound bite of Johnny speaking about being hooked on drugs. This song went from a song that utterly shocked me to a song that won me over. It doesn’t really suit, but it does at the same time.

What Would I Dreamer Do? – The Jayhawks bring this one back down to the country roots. The steel guitar mixed with acoustic guitar are the stars for me.

Spirit Rider – Jamey Johnson closes this one off. Another haunting number that focuses on the deep tone of Jamey’s voice. The sax work by Dick Aven brought to mind the sound on David Bowie’s Blackstar album, so it earns huge bonus points.

I miss you Johnny and today I really miss you Chris. It doesn’t seem like a year has passed since you left us. Say hi to Johnny for me.

9/10

 

 

 

 

 

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19 thoughts on “Album Review: Johnny Cash – Forever Words (2018)

  1. Excellent review. White vinyl! I like that focus on lyrics too. The Willie Nelson/Kris Kristofferson duet caught my attention immediately and was disappointed that more wasn’t made of it. I agree that more should have been made of it. I also like Jewel’s voice and Jamie Johnson’s too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jewel always seemed too glitzy, pop country. Like a Shania or a country Britney Spears. I have been guilty of writing certain singers off before really listening to them. Maybe I should broaden my horizons a bit with her. I had never heard Jamey Johnson but I like his deeper tone.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kind of like a rhinestone cowboy/girl… I don’t know a lot of her music or even if she writes her own, but I like her sound while she strums the guitar. I first heard Jamey Johnson with Kid Rock (I know, I know, I can hear the waves of disapproval), again, while I haven’t heard a lot I have liked all I’ve heard. Come to think of it, a Jewel and Jamey collaboration might sound good….

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I know what you mean when a song feels like a missed opportunity (like the Nelson & Kristofferson duet here) – and I’m a Mellancamp fan too, regardless of what variation on his name he was using!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I live Willie and Kris’ voices. They both do a great job on this short little speech.
      So props.
      I just wanted more. Call me greedy.

      Perhaps John didn’t want to be lumped in with all the cougars at his concerts.

      Like

  3. J. says:

    Excellent review, Bop. You definitely like this one more than I do… I’d perhaps give it a 7.

    I actually really liked the Kris and Willie intro despite it being over very quickly. Wonderfully done.

    A few moments just didn’t quite hit the mark for me… not poor or anything, I just didn’t connect with them – Jewel, Chris, Glasper…

    The intro, Krauss, T Bone and Rosanne and Carlene tracks are especially good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it may be tough for some to hear a non-country singer/band play a Johnny Cash tune.
      I really give props to John Carter Cash for his selection of musicians.
      It really opened my eyes.
      He could have had a line of 100 country musicians we all know on this album, and it probably would have been great, but to me it emphasizes how Johnny’s music resonates with so many genres.
      Even if all the songs don’t ring true to all, at least they went for it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • J. says:

        That’s quite possible, but for me Cash transcends country. I tip my hat to all those involved, though… but some of it just wasn’t for me.

        Like

  4. I’m a sucker for these things (Mermaid Ave, Woody songs). Cash always get my attention. Glad you gave T-Bone a nod. I’m a big fan of his music. He’s a perfect guy to be involved. Don’t know a few of the folks on the record but I like good surprises.

    Liked by 1 person

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