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Cash’s ‘Unearthed’ box set unveiled

Five-disc collection of unreleased songs now available
/ Source: Billboard

A sprawling five-disc Johnny Cash box set has arrived from American Recordings/Lost Highway. Dubbed “Unearthed,” the set features 79 songs, 64 of them previously unreleased and produced by Rick Rubin during the late country great’s sessions for his four “American Recordings” albums released between 1994 and 2002.

Cash died Sept. 12 from complications related to diabetes at the age of 71.

The first three discs feature such finds as solo acoustic versions of “Long Black Veil” and “Flesh and Blood,” and covers of Steve Earle’s “Devil’s Right Hand,” Roy Orbison’s “Down the Line” and the Neil Young songs “Heart of Gold” and “Pocahontas.”

Discs two and three boast several duets, some with old friends and others with newer acquaintances. On the veteran side, Cash’s late Sun Records labelmate Carl Perkins joins him for a run through the familiar “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” while his bandmate in the Highwaymen, Willie Nelson, shows up on “Like a Soldier.” Glen Campbell sings with Cash on “Gentle on My Mind.”

Skewing away from his contemporaries, late Clash lead singer Joe Strummer joins Cash on a version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and Tom Petty appears on “The Running Kind.” Fiona Apple also sings “Father and Son” with him and Nick Cave joins in on “Cindy.” A solo version of “Redemption Song” also appears on Strummer’s new album, “Streetcore.”

The fourth “Unearthed” disc is subtitled “My Mother’s Hymn Book,” and is comprised of 15 songs from a book of hymns Cash’s mother read to him as a child. Via solo acoustic performances, the deeply spiritual artist revisits such secular songs as “I Shall Not Be Moved,” “Do Lord,” “If We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven” and “In the Sweet By and By.”

The final disc is a “best of” representation of the four albums Cash released with Rubin at the helm: 1994’s “American Recordings,” 1996’s “Unchained,” 2000’s “American III: Solitary Man” and last year’s “American IV: The Man Comes Around.”

“Unearthed” will also boast a 104-page clothbound book including a track-by-track discussion by Cash, Rubin and others. Also featured is one of Cash’s final interviews, in which he and Rubin talk about the body of work they created.

Cash’s life and career will be celebrated with a musical tribute Nov. 10 at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. Nelson, John Mellencamp, Dwight Yoakam, George Jones, Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Travis Tritt, Hank Williams Jr. and Sheryl Crow are among those confirmed to participate.