An Unreleased Johnny Cash Album from 1993 Will Finally Drop This Summer—Listen to the First Preview of ‘Songwriter’ Today

Over the years fans and critics alike have laid several titles at the feet of Johnny Cash. Legend, icon, advocate, activist, and plenty more are fitting. However, one title that unfortunately seems to get overlooked when the Man in Black comes up in conversation is songwriter. Simply put, Cash could pen a song with the best of them. This summer, the new aptly-titled album Songwriter will bring that label into sharp focus.

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The eleven-track collection sat in a vault for more than three decades before John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny and June Carter, pulled it out, dusted it off, and prepared it for release. Hear the first sample of the album “Well Alright” below.

About Songwriter, John Carter said, “I wanted it to be songs that mostly people hadn’t heard and that paid close attention to who he was as a songwriter and who he was as an American voice.” He continued, saying, “One of my most important focuses in the past 10 years is to make sure that history, as best that I can possibly, is to give history the opportunity to notice him as the great writer he is. Bob Dylan says he’s one of the greatest writers of all of American written music and I agree. I want to put that in the forefront.”

About Cash’s songwriting, he said, “His writing voice specifically is a certain voice, that I think if America wants to know their history, that’s a good place to look. Johnny Cash is definitely one true voice that we can listen to, specifically to his writings.”

Johnny Cash Recorded Songwriter in 1993

In early 1993, Cash’s contract with Mercury Records was coming to an end. At the time, he had an album worth of songs that he wanted to record. It just so happened that his daughter Rosey and her husband Mike Daniels owned LSI Studios in Nashville. So, he took his collection of songs to their studio to help them financially while also recording something special.

Cash met Rick Rubin shortly after recording what became Songwriter. Then, he embarked on his deal with American Recordings to release his last few albums. As a result, the tapes he recorded at LSI sat on a shelf gathering dust. That is until John Carter Cash decided the time was right to do something with them.

John Carter Cash Revives Songwriter

John Carter teamed up with David “Fergie” Ferguson who worked with Cash as an engineer when he recorded with Cowboy Jack Clement to create Songwriter. The pair worked tirelessly to strip the recordings down to Cash’s voice and acoustic guitar. Then, they used the sparse arrangements as a guide to build the rest of the sound.

“We just went rudimentary. We went straight to the roots, as far as the sound, and tried not to overly enhance it,” John Carter said. “We built as if dad was in the room. That’s what we tried to do. Between the both of us, Fergie and I have spent thousands of hours with dad in the recording studio. So, we just tried to act like he was there. WWJCD (What Would Johnny Cash Do), right?”

Johnny Cash Would Approve of the Musicians on This Album

John Carter and Fergie assembled a killer team of musicians in the legendary Cash Cabin to back Johnny on this album. Marty Stuart, who played in Cash’s Tennessee Three in the ‘80s plays electric guitar. The late Dave Roe plays standup bass. Interestingly, Roe played on the original recordings and toured with Cash for around a decade. However, his original work on the album wasn’t the best. He returned to the studio some 30 years later as one of the best upright bass players in Nashville in a behind-the-scenes full-circle moment.

Other musicians behind the sound of Songwriter include Pete Abbott (drums), Ana Cristina Cash (background vocals), Matt Combs (acoustic guitar, mandolin, strings), Mike Rojas (B3 organ, piano), Russ Pahl (acoustic and electric guitar, bass, dobro, pedal steel, Sam Bacco (congas, percussion). Additionally, Grand Ole Opry guitarist Kerry Marx, singer Harry Stinson, Dan Auerbach, Vince Gill, and outlaw country legend Waylon Jennings make guest appearances on select tracks.

“Nobody plays Cash better than Marty Stuart and Dave Roe. Of course, they toured with dad for many years,” said John Carter. “The musicians that came in were tracking with dad, you know, recording with dad, just as, in the case of Marty and Dave, they had many times before. So, they knew his energies, his movements, and they let him be the guide,” he added. “It was just playing with Johnny once again, and that’s what it was. That was the energy of the creation.”

Songwriter Tracklist and Pre-Order Info

Songwriter will hit record store shelves and streaming platforms on June 28 via Mercury Nashville/UMe. You can pre-order your copy today. It is available on CD, standard black vinyl, and multiple limited edition vinyl variants.


  1. “Hello Out There”
  2. “Spotlight”
  3. “Drive On”
  4. “I Love You Tonite”
  5. “Have You Ever Been to Little Rock?”
  6. “Well Alright”
  7. “She Sang Sweet Baby James”
  8. “Poor Valley Girl”
  9. “Soldier Boy”
  10. “Sing It Pretty Sue”
  11. “Like a Soldier”

Featured image by Alan Messer

One Comment

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  1. Except that it wasn’t an album, it was just a set of demos. And two of those songs did get recorded and released. And Johnny didn’t go with Rick Rubin because his contract ended – he was actually dropped by his previous label because they thought that he was through.

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