Producer and Songwriter John Leventhal Reveals Debut ‘Rumble Strip,’ Shares Two Singles, One Featuring Rosanne Cash

Throughout his 45-year career, John Leventhal has worn many hats, as a producer and songwriter, musician, composer, and more. In all this time, Leventhal has never explored being a solo artist until Rumble Strip, the namesake of his and wife Rosanne Cash‘s newly formed label and his forthcoming debut album, out January 26.

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“I’ve always had a catalog of ideas that have never found a home,” said Leventhal in a statement. “In the back of my mind, I thought that one of these days I should try to harvest some of those ideas and confront the personal gauntlet of making a solo record.” 

[RELATED: Rosanne Cash, John Leventhal Launch New Label RumbleStrip Records]

By 2020, the pandemic gave Leventhal the time to sift through songs he had archived from previous projects before he ended up writing a completely new collection of tracks for Rumble Strip. “The idea of the record came from the fact that I had been producing and co-writing with artists for a long time and inevitably, at the end of every project, there was a bunch of material that never found a home,” Leventhal recently shared with American Songwriter. “I had all these different artists singing. I had demos of all these tunes, and I was like, ‘Well, I really liked these. One day, I should just make a record where I put out all these orphans’ as I call them.”

Leventhal continues “When the pandemic came, it was like ‘Okay, now you’re going to make your record because you have nothing else to do,’ and the idea of doing all these orphans got less interesting to me because I had a lot of time, so I would just start writing [new] stuff.”

Giving a glimpse into his mostly instrumental Rumble Strip, Leventhal shared “That’s All I Know About Arkansas,” featuring vocals by Cash, who also wrote the track, along with the acoustic guitar-driven “JL’s Hymn No. 2,” which he wrote and recorded the same evening as Cash’s track.

“I’ve always loved a good hymn,” added Leventhal of the instrumental. “A good one can look sorrow straight in the eye, and still leave you with some hope.”

Spanning soul, guitar solos, country, Anglican hymns, and more sonic stories from America, abroad, and people, places, or times that have impacted him, Rumble Strip is another portion of Leventhal’s memory bank of songs.

[RELATED: Rosanne Cash Reissues ‘The Wheel’ 30 Years Later, Remastered Title Track]

Starting his career in the 1970s, the New York City-born Leventhal began as a musician, playing guitar for Levon Helm, Steve Forbert, and others before going on to produce dozens of artists including his longtime collaborative relationship with Cash. The two were married in 1995 and have worked on seven of Cash’s albums, including The Wheel in 1993—which is getting a 30th-anniversary edition released from the couple’s RumbleStrip Records on November 17—and her follow-up 10 Song Demos in 1996.

Cash and Leventhal continued working together on her Rules of Travel (2003), Black Cadillac (2006), and The River & the Thread (2014), along with her most recent release She Remembers Everything in 2018.

The six-time Grammy winner has also produced Shawn Colvin, Jim Lauderdale, Marc Cohn, Joan Osborne, Sarah Jarosz, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and William Bell, among many others. As a musician, he has also played on albums with Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne, Bruce Hornsby, Elvis Costello, The Tedeschi Trucks Band, and more. Most recently, Leventhal co-produced The National’s song “Crumble” from their 2023 album Laugh Track, which features Cash.

Leventhal picked up his first Grammys for Record of the Year and Song of the Year as the co-writer and producer of Shawn Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home” from her 1996 album A Few Small Repairs.

In 2015, he picked up three more Grammys—Best Americana Album, Best American Roots Song, and Best American Roots Performance—for Cash’s 13th album The River and the Thread, along with another for Bell’s 2016 album This Is Where I Live.

Cash and Leventhal are also working on the music and lyrics for the upcoming Broadway musical Norma Rae

Photo: Wes Bender / Courtesy of Kid Logic Media

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