When Brad Paisley included a song called “Gold All Over The Ground” on his recent album Love and War, we thought it was just a one-off occasion where one of today’s country artists took a poem from Johnny Cash and turned it into a song. The poem “Gold All Over The Ground” was first composed in March of 1967 about Johnny Cash’s wife June Carter, and was published in 2016 in the posthumous Johnny Cash poetry collection called Forever Words.
But apparently that’s just where the treasure trove of Johnny Cash poems and unfinished songs begins. Word is performers and songwriters in Nashville are being asked to participate in a project spearheaded by Johnny Cash’s son and caretaker of the Cash Cabin studio, John Carter Cash, putting music and sometimes words to Cash poems for a future release. Some of the artists that have been asked to participate so far include Jamey Johnson, Trick Pony bass player Ira Dean, and the late Chris Cornell, who apparently finished and recorded his contribution before his recent death.
“I had a great co-write today,” Ira Dean posted on social media back in April. “It’s not every day you have a co-write with the late Johnny Cash and get to work on one of his unfinished songs. I just wished you were still here John. It woulda been way more fun (thank you John Carter for letting me be able to do this.)”
In a recent interview with Jamey Johnson, he also mentioned the project.
“John Carter has a good number of poems that Johnny wrote,” Johnson says. “I say poems because they don’t have music to them. He’s working on an album where’s he’s pairing up these songs with songwriters from our day to finish up these Johnny Cash songs. One of them that I know he’s most proud of and you can’t get it anymore – he’s got Chris Cornell having finished one of these songs and then recorded it. I’m excited for it to come out. I got to do a couple of them. Part of it was just really cool to get this lyric in that we didn’t have a second verse to. So, John Carter and I sat down and wrote a second verse.”
This means that The Man in Black is not quite done contributing to country music just yet, despite his death in 2003. However, similar projects in the past of taking unfinished songs and putting them to music have stirred controversy, including The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams project released in 2011. Bob Dylan was put in charge of the effort, and distributed the unfinished songs to different artists including Jack White, Alan Jackson, Merle Haggard, Holly Williams, Levon Helm, and Sheryl Crow. However that project differed from the Johnny Cash effort because of controversy about how the project arose, and the chain of custody for the songs. In this instance Johnny Cash’s heirs and estate appear to be in charge.
No word at the moment on the name of the project, or when it might be released.