Country legend Johnny Cash is being honored with on new compilation album called Kindred Spirits, due for release on September 24. The CD features a stellar line-up of rock and country singers, such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Hank Williams, Junior, Little Richard, Travis Tritt and Marty Stewart.
For nearly 50 years, Johnny Cash has written and performed songs that blend the honesty of folk and country music with the rebellious spirit of rock and roll. Along with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, he made the transition from rockabilly to rock. Country star Marty Stewart talks about his role as a performer and producer for the new Johnny Cash tribute album Kindred Spirits.
"The absolute standard of the record was for me to be able to go at the end of it, and sit in front of Johnny Cash and hand it to him," says Stewart, "and sit there, and look him straight in the eye and say, 'We honored your songs the best we could.'"
For the Johnny Cash song Flesh and Blood, country singers Emmylou Harris and Mary Chapin Carpenter teamed with rocker Sheryl Crow. Sheryl regards Johnny not only as a legend, but a human link in the evolution of rock.
"I think he is part of the definition of rock and roll, in that he has always had an original voice," she says. " He's always been outspoken. He's stood up for the things he's believed in. He's been a bit radical. He's been an anarchist, and he's been a spiritual man. He's been a man who's always been searching, and I think all those traits are traits that we have in ourselves. And his music, I think, will be remembered as the fabric of the American way of life."
Emmylou Harris has shared the stage with Johnny Cash over the years. She praises his longevity and ability to remain relevant to several generations of music fans.
"A man's who's given us so much over the last 50 years certainly has a right to rest on his laurels if he wanted to and say, 'Well, I've done that, I don't have to do that anymore.' But I think part of his nature is seeking out that passion and following it to its end," says Harris.
The Kindred Spirits album also includes interpretations of Johnny Cash's music by jazz and blues singer Keb' Mo', cowboy-punk performer Dwight Yoakam and country rocker Steve Earle, as well as other rock, folk and country luminaries. By participating on Kindred Spirits, country star Travis Tritt says he was honored to pay tribute to Johnny Cash's versatility as a songwriter and performer. "I mean, this is a guy that's the only guy on the planet who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. That's a pretty big statement," notes Tritt. " The material that's included on this album is just scratching the surface of what Johnny Cash's catalog is all about. There are some really amazing, amazing songs that he's written over the years."
Suffering from a neurological disorder, the 70-year-old Johnny Cash appeared at the recent Americana Music Awards in Nashville, where he accepted the Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award. On November 5, the legendary singer will release his next album, American IV: The Man Comes Around.