A lost Johnny Cash album will be released next spring, a little less than a decade after the country icon’s death.
Cash’s estate will release Out Among the Stars, an album he recorded with Billy Sherrill in the early 1980s, in March. The album was never released by Columbia Records, and went missing after the label dropped Cash in 1986. Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, apparently had the album the whole time.
“They never threw anything away,” said their son, John Carter Cash. “They kept everything in their lives. They had an archive that had everything in it from the original audio tapes from The Johnny Cash Show to random things like a camel saddle, a gift from the prince of Saudi Arabia.”
It took John Carter Cash and archivists at Legacy Recordings until last year to find the unreleased material. Out Among the Stars was recorded in 1981 and 1984, during a period of great change for country music. Sherrill, then the president of CBS Records Nashville, was helping to push country music toward a more pop sound.
“Dad was always uniquely himself,” Cash said. “And later on the world would come back around. He never modified himself. But Nashville at the time was in a completely different place. It was the Urban Cowboy phase. It was pop country, and dad was not that. I think him working with Billy was sort of an effort by the record company to put him more in the circle of Music Row and see what could happen at the heart of that machine.”
Music Row is an area to the southwest of Downtown Nashville that is home to many country, gospel, and contemporary Christian music industries. It is widely considered the heart of Nashville’s entertainment industry, and was once home to the Country Music Hall of Fame, which moved to Downtown Nashville in 2001.
Columbia executives didn’t care for the recordings on Out Among the Stars, and released a few more of Johnny Cash’s albums before dropping him from his recording contract. Cash found a new home at Mercury Records from 1987 to 1991, releasing three albums, including one of re-recordings from his days at Sun and Columbia Records.
Johnny Cash’s friend Marty Stuart was brought in to re-record his parts on Out Among the Stars. The 12-track album also features a duet with Waylon Jennings and two with June Carter Cash.
“We were so excited when we discovered this,” John Carter Cash said. “We were like, my goodness this is a beautiful record that nobody has ever heard. Johnny Cash is in the very prime of his voice for his lifetime. He’s pitch perfect. It’s seldom where there’s more than one vocal take. They’re a live take and they’re perfect.”
Out Among the Stars will be released March 25, 2014.
[Photo credit: Heinrich Klaffs / Flickr]