cash-johnny-american-recordings.jpg

When Johnny Cash signed with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings label in 1992, it would mark the beginning of one of the most celebrated artistic resurrections in popular music. The resulting album, released in 1994, consists of spare, dark cover versions taken from a wildly eclectic American songbook.

When I look at the cover, the first word that comes to mind is biblical. Everything about the image is ominous and powerful, with Cash cast as both preacher and sinner. He would be perfect as the harbinger of doom in some spooky film.

For all its powerful evocation of dark Americana, the cover photography was taken in Australia during Cash’s 1992 tour with Kris Kristofferson. Photographer Andy Earl had intended to shoot Cash at a railway track but when the lighting wasn’t working he moved to an adjacent wheat field. The eerie dogs, with their inverse black and white colouring, just happened to run into frame and position themselves. Perhaps the wry look on Cash’s face is inspired by this series of serendipitous events – a hunch that things were finally looking up.

The one element of this cover that is no accident – the bold typography – would help to define Cash’s new brand moving forward.

On American III Cash is backstage, still going about the life of a gigging musician:

album-american-iii-solitary-man.jpg

Until American IV sees the singer-songwriter being swallowed by the colour that defined him. Having earned his redemption the hard way, the man in black seems resigned to a meeting with his maker.

americaniv_2.jpg

As the American Recordings series continued, Cash’s personal mythology and impending death would resonate powerfully, most famously in the video clip for his cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt:

Cash wrote so much important music and for so long. So it seems only fitting that he would eventually be given the collaborators he needed to write the perfect farewell.

Johnny Cash: American Recordings


cash-johnny-american-recordings.jpg

When Johnny Cash signed with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings label in 1992, it would mark the beginning of one of the most celebrated artistic resurrections in popular music. The resulting album, released in 1994, consists of spare, dark cover versions taken from a wildly eclectic American songbook.

When I look at the cover, the first word that comes to mind is biblical. Everything about the image is ominous and powerful, with Cash cast as both preacher and sinner. He would be perfect as the harbinger of doom in some spooky film.

For all its powerful evocation of dark Americana, the cover photography was taken in Australia during Cash’s 1992 tour with Kris Kristofferson. Photographer Andy Earl had intended to shoot Cash at a railway track but when the lighting wasn’t working he moved to an adjacent wheat field. The eerie dogs, with their inverse black and white colouring, just happened to run into frame and position themselves. Perhaps the wry look on Cash’s face is inspired by this series of serendipitous events – a hunch that things were finally looking up.

The one element of this cover that is no accident – the bold typography – would help to define Cash’s new brand moving forward.

On American III Cash is backstage, still going about the life of a gigging musician:

album-american-iii-solitary-man.jpg

Until American IV sees the singer-songwriter being swallowed by the colour that defined him. Having earned his redemption the hard way, the man in black seems resigned to a meeting with his maker.

americaniv_2.jpg

As the American Recordings series continued, Cash’s personal mythology and impending death would resonate powerfully, most famously in the video clip for his cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt:

Cash wrote so much important music and for so long. So it seems only fitting that he would eventually be given the collaborators he needed to write the perfect farewell.





6 Comments

  1. The strong text treatment seems to work well with these covers and the monochromatic photographs. I like the sense of power and vulnerability it suggests.

  2. ahaahahh thats my dads dogs he was there when johny cash asked if he could buy them for up to $4000, my father declined so johny cash ask if he could at least take a photo with the two dogs tess and ted , tess is the black kelpy and ted is the koolie kelpy x . andrew earl took the photo with our two dogs in Gheringhap victoria australia . you might want to change what you wrote about it under the cover.

  3. ahaahahh thats my dads dogs he was there when johny cash asked if he could buy them for up to $4000, my father declined so johny cash ask if he could at least take a photo with the two dogs tess and ted , tess is the black kelpy and ted is the koolie kelpy x . andrew earl took the photo with our two dogs in Gheringhap victoria australia . you might want to change what you wrote about it under the cover.

  4. great story danielwhitehead, its one of the best cover of all time i think, so thanks for shedding some light on it all.

  5. great story danielwhitehead, its one of the all time best covers, with one of biggest music legends, your dogs will go down in history! thanks for shedding some light on it all, you should let a few of the music magazine know – theyd love to read this.

  6. hey mate long time since you added this comment but id love to know where exactly the photo was taken. i live very close to the geringhap overpass and quite often walk the dogs along the railroad service track there, I love JR and would love to stand in the same spot as that photo was taken!

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