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Solitary Man Album Liner Notes

I began this album as the last one, in the cabin, in the middle of a 50-acre compound surrounded by cedar trees, deer, goats, and peacocks. The window unit air condition doesn’t work anymore. We had buffalo, and every time it came on, they rammed it with their horns. Sometimes we have to stop tape for a thunderstorm. We play back the songs and the mockingbirds sing along with us.

I sat on the porch with Merle Haggard and talked about the road. “I play Chattanooga tonight” he said. His bus waited just outside my gate while we recorded “I’m leaving now” “Then I said Hello” I’m glad I didn’t have to go. You’ll be playing the Hank Snow style guitar, and Laura Cash on the fiddle. It’s always a good day for me when I can see an old friend like Haggard. 

Guards on the cat walk with shotguns. Clanging of steel cups for applause. The yelling at me. The men on death row, as I walk by. Sites and sounds of San Quentin, years ago.  Haggard and I didn’t talk about it. After nearly 40 years on the road, prison is ancient history, and an old con is an old con. “Nobody” is the oldest song on the album. Egbert Williams singing it in Vaudeville year ago. I won a talent contest singing “That Lucky Old Sun” (just roll around heaven all day) when I was young.

“Nothing feels better then blood on blood” goes the song by Bruce Springsteen. John Carter and I worked very closely together on the songs recorded in Tennessee. His expertise and insight into my abilities helped guide me through of these sessions. 

Recording in Tennessee isn’t much different than recording in California; the song is the thing that matters. Before I can record, I have to hear it, and know that I can make it feel like my own, or it won’t work. I worked on those songs until it felt like they were my own. “Mercy Seat” “Solitary man” “I Won’t Back Down” 

When we moved the project to California with Rick at the helm, this album was finished in seven days. Rick was always there, overseeing everything that we did, including most of the sessions in Tennessee. It was his guidance that brought it all to this end. When it comes to getting down to focusing on the song and getting the job done, Rick Rubin does the job. 

In Hollywood at Rick’s house, Benmont Tench played nice keyboard, while Mike Campbell played guitar. I only sang the song once and it felt right again. Rick lied down on the floor of the control room while I was recording at his house; his dogs roamed the room as they always have when I’m there. Sometimes you think he’s asleep. But he isn’t, he hears every sound. He sits up when Tom Petty comes in. I asked Tom to sing on his song, in a matter of minutes, he done it, not only “I Back Down” but also “Solitary Man.”

“Mary Of The Wild Moor” is one of those classic country songs that wouldn’t leave my head, that one and “Wayfaring Stranger”. Strains of this one kept coming through my mind throughout the whole project. It wouldn’t go away, so I felt it was meant to be included here. “Before My Time” is a new song of mine that came to me in listening to the old ones. “Country Trash” is a song I wrote from a little country pride in my childhood way of life

I realize that generally songs don’t anything that songs weren’t saying a hundred years ago; the difference is we are saying it in a different way. Like David Alan Coe’s song “Would You Lay With Me” (In A field Of Stone), a harsh challenge to a lover, coming from his beat vision of possibilities. Good old Coe, there’s a man who is different.

Laying on out backs and looking at the stars at our house in Jamaica, Jack Routh and I wrote “Field Of Diamonds”. The unlikely duet of June and Sheryl Crow sang along with me, and it really felt comfortable. Sheryl came by on the last day of the sessions in Hollywood to sing with me and play accordion on a couple of songs. Likewise Oldham flew in to sing on “I See The Darkness” with me.

I was blessed with have such great musicians as Norman Blake, Marty Stuart, Randy Scruggs, John Carter Cash, Larry Perkins, and the whole Tennessee crew were super pro. 

Thanks to Kathy Cash Tittle for the 8ounce cokes in the glass bottles. Thanks to Lindsay Chase, at Rick’s place, who fielded all are calls. Thanks to Ferg and David for a good job. Thanks to Kelly Hancock for coordinating all my activities. And Lou Robin, who brought Rick and I together in the first place. Thanks to Rick for continuing to believe in me. I don’t sound as good to me, as he says I do, but I thank him anyway. This album has been a long time coming, and I feel another in there somewhere. 

On the question of youth and old age, I wouldn’t have trade my future for anyone’s I know. After all my experiences of the past and present to bring the best song I know to the sessions. The future is not questionable, but for me it is a path of light. Lit by those I know, enrich my life. 

The Master of life’s been good to me. He gives me good health now and helps me to continue doing what I love. He has given me strength to face past illnesses, and victory in the face of defeat. He has given me life and joy where others saw oblivion. He has given new purpose to live for, new services to render and old wounds to heal. Life love go on. Let the music play.    Johnny Cash Aug 16, 2000   

Johnny Cash's Producer, And Founder Of
American Records
Rick Rubin

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As A Fan I Would Like Thank Johnny Cash And Rick Rubin And Everyone Involved For Making  This Great Album  

Revised: September 02, 2007

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