Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley and others give Johnny Cash's poetry a second life in new album

Johnny Cash's poetry comes to life in album

Popular artists help bring newly-discovered poetry from legendary musician Johnny Cash to life in the album, "Johnny Cash: Forever Words." CBS News' Anthony Mason spoke with Cash's son, John Carter Cash, who is also a producer of the album, at his father's Tennessee cabin-turned-studio where most of the artists came to record the tribute. 

"My father called this…Cedar Hill Refuge," John said of the cabin nestled at the back of the family's Hendersonville, Tennessee, property.

Artists like Kacey Musgraves and her husband Ruston Kelly, Brad Paisley, and Johnny's daughter Rosanne Cash all sing on the album, released Friday.

"The words called out on the page," John Carter Cash said of his father's poems. "They just begged out really to me to be heard."

Johnny wrote constantly – letters, lyrics, poetry. The family found hundreds of pages after his death.  

John Carter Cash and Anthony Mason outside Johnny Cash's cabin-turned-recording studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee.  CBS News

 "He was a packrat, my father was," he said. "But you know, I mean words, words meant the world to my dad….If you look at 200 pieces by any artist that are cast aside, you're gonna find some gems within those. And that's what these are." 

After publishing "Forever Words: The Unknown Poems" in 2016, John began looking for musical collaborators. He had a list of people in mind, including 27-time Grammy winner Alison Krauss. She worked with songwriter Robert Lee Castleman to finish "The Captain's Daughter."    

"I was thrilled to be asked. I was hoping I'd be asked. Because I'd heard about the project," Krauss said. "It's like, I don't wanna say holy ground, but it is. You're like, you really want to do it. But you really don't because you're afraid."

John also reached out to Chris Cornell before his tragic death last May, and the Soundgarden frontman told him that his father was one of his greatest influences. Johnny had recorded Cornell's song "Rusty Cage" in 1996. Cornell picked "You Never Knew My Mind."

Kacey Musgraves and her husband Ruston Kelly inside Johnny Cash's studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee. 

"My father wrote, 'You Never Knew My Mind' in 1967 when he was going through a breakup with his first wife, Vivian. And Chris also connected intimately with his own experience…to finish the song that my father started," John said.

It would become one Cornell's last recordings. The songs span Johnny Cash's life, from his teenage years to just before his death in 2003, when he was mourning the recent loss of his wife June.

"My father was a persistent man. You know people say, 'Did your dad die of a broken heart?' I know he died with one, but I don't think it killed him. I think he'd still be making music with us today, you know, if his body hadn't given out," John said.

The song "Forever" comes from one of the last poems he wrote and is performed by his old friends, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson.