Johnny Cash always had his ears open to a great song regardless of where it came from. So even though he was considered a standard-bearer of traditional country music and was deeply knowledgeable about folk, gospel, blues and other roots forms, he also was quick to embrace talented young songwriters, which made him an early champion of such rock figures as Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.
When the British new wave movement sprang up in the late 1970s, Cash also found something to admire in the brash music coming from England and developed friendships with Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe.
That’s the reason behind a bonus track on the “lost” Cash album that’s being released on Tuesday, March 25, “Out Among the Stars.” In addition to the dozen songs that Cash recorded with producer Billy Sherrill in 1981 and 1984 that make up the new collection, there’s an alternate version of the ballad “She Used to Love Me a Lot” that was produced by Costello.
“Elvis is a family friend,” said John Carter Cash, the only child of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, and the man who has spearheaded the release of “Out Among the Stars.” As part of an in-depth interview that will appear Tuesday in Calendar, John Carter Cash said it made perfect sense to invite Costello, a longtime country music fan himself, to try his hand at mixing one of the tracks to bring something different to the album.
“He’s been real close with Rosanne [Cash, Johnny Cash’s daughter from his first marriage to Vivian Liberto] and myself. Elvis had worked with Billy Sherrill, and when my dad was making this record, they were buddies, hanging out together a lot. As early as 1979 they were friends. On the mantle in the Cash family cabin that my parents built in 1979, the first people who signed it were Dave Edmunds and Elvis — all the Rockpile guys signed it.
The version of Rhonda Fleming, Dennis Morgan and Charles Quillen’s “She Used to Love Me a Lot,” from the original session, is being promoted as a single, but the Costello mix offers a dramatically different atmosphere, haunting and foreboding.
“On this song,” John Carter Cash said, “we had two mixes were were going back and forth on which to include for the record. One was more haunted and eerie, one was more up and energetic. We thought we should have someone come in and do a completely different mix, and that was Elvis.”