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Return To The Promise Land

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There are many gifts we receive during the course of our lives. Not just on birthdays and Christmas. The kind of blessings that happen when others bestow their grace. I have been so blessed in this way to know John Cash and June Carter and to share so much with them. Our family have known each other for many years. John’s mother, the late Carrie Cash (or Momma Cash, as a lovingly called), was a dear friend to my late grandmother, Marie Corner; my mom would attend June’s afternoon teas. Momma Cash put my grandmother’s recipes for cheese sausage ball appetizer and sweet southern fruit tea in Momma Cash’s Cookbook. Some of my seven sisters were school friends with john or June’s six daughters. Their son (and my close friend) John Carter cash, went out with my piece during high school. Point made.

When my mother, Jackie Corner Waddell, passed away in February of 1987, John and June called me to express their pain and condolences. Their words were gently prolific and comforting. A few weeks later, John called again and insisted I come out on the road with them. On tour with the Johnny Cash entourage! They offered me the opportunity to travel with them and to help out with backstage media, advance tour publicity, travel logistics and such knowing a change of scenery for my grief would be good for me. During the next nine years, I received quite a worldly education, John and June style. Traveling across the country and abroad, there were so many special moments, so much intense scenery hundreds of bizarre character and magical music events I experienced. However, it is this CD work you now posses in which I am most proud. Originally slated to be a 1992 Easter cable television special, the entire Return To The Promise Land project is unique, both in how it came to be and final results. It literally fell in my lap. John called me one morning in the spring of 92 and asked me to go pick up the numerous raw videotape masters and see if I could do anything with them. The network had passed on doing the Easter show.

 

At this time, I was driving back and forth twice-weekly from Nashville to Branson Missouri, working on the never-to-be completed Johnny Cash Theater that some wide-eyed investor was attempting to build. I spent my every available moment looking at and logging the various content on those videotapes shot in location around the Holy Land. The tapes traveled everywhere I did. The majority of the six plus hours of raw video footage was unusable due to technical glitches or camera failure. However, most of the musical performances and sincere introductory words from the shoot were visually clean and not a notable rawness and deep connection (two songs of the songs were pre-recorded tracks) Working in the all-digital D2 format at Bob Cummings Productions in Nashville, we were able to piece the video together with painstaking care. Thousands of edits. Once the visual portion took shape, we proceeded to add instruments to the acoustic tracks John, June a John Carter had originally performed while taping the video 

 

We had only four available audio channels to record to, so everything had to be put down through the board in the master edit suite of this strictly video production facility. During our digital download process, we were consciously aware not to lose any original vocal quality from the original analog videotape vocals. My drums were recorded first, then bass, then guitars and keyboards, while moving tracks around on the four tracks digital D2 video edit systems. Pete Cummings, Joe Edwards and Lee Owens were simply great. They were not hired professional musicians brought in for the audio session. No. Amazingly these were the same guys that had been working for weeks with me on the video production. They conveniently all just happed to be great players when it came time for making music. It was quite the sight; drums set up in the middle of the videotape duplicating room and guitars set up in the studio’s set up in the studio’s hallway. It was primitive, but it worked. George Martin would have been proud. During the this time, I’m stopped at this convenience market, when a kid on a bicycle asks if I’d like to make a donation to his church. As I put some money in the coffee can, I asked him what for and he replies “to buy new church pews” and he told me the old wooden ones were getting uncomfortable for the elderly church members. I then asked him what his church was going to do with the old wooden pews. He pointed his finger across the street and told me to go over to the church and ask his preacher. 

 

From that little church, I ended up buying three beautiful antique pews for $40 each, putting two of them out in front of John’s offices and museum in Hendersonville (northeast of Nashville) where I worked. Those heavy and now-painted church pews are still there. Fast forward to midnight on the very last Friday night in September of this year 2000. John’s niece, Kelly Hancock has left hidden for me an advance vinyl copy of John’s brand new release, American #3 Solitary Man, near the front door of the now-closed Johnny Cash Museum. Stopping to pick it up, I decided to stay for a second while recalling years of memories. Moments later, I am seated on one of the church pews I bought and put here years earlier. For me, time stood still for a while this late September evening. It was almost surreal, sitting on the porch front of this building where I used to work, reading with amazement John’s words of liner notes on his brand new recording. I realized right then again, what I’d known for a long time. Whether one likes John’s music or not, or buy John’s CDs, there is a comfortable feeling knowing that there are still brand new Johnny Cash albums coming out. New Cash revival. John gets out songs what the songwriter puts in. It’s good to know that for nearly five decades, this man has understood the heart of the songs he records and made them each his own. It will always be cool and trendy to play Johnny Cash music. Or do Johnny Cash impersonations. I guess that as long as John is still recording and putting out new music, really good songs will always have a chance to be heard. But I digress. 

 

When most of the Return To The Promise Land music tracks were near completion we released there was no theme song/music tying the entire work together. Needing a title track, I called my friend David Ray Skinner, who lives in Atlanta. David thusly responded by calling back just two hours later, politely waited for a tone and then played a wonderful melody on my home answering machine. (David a talented singer-song writer also drew by hand, the logo used here on this CD cover). We now had a music theme on tape to work with, albeit on my trusty 1970s era recording marvel answering machine. We worked on the song and John wrote the last verse just moments before he and June sang their vocals on it. They ultimately recorded the song “Return to The Promise Land” in just over twenty minutes. It felts real, not slick and polished. Mostly, it felt right. Finally. Acoustic music to go before during or after dialogue was recorded. With some little post-production changes here and there, the whole video/audio project was finally mixed and completed. Karen Adams (at our office) processed a knee-deep’s worth of paper work and World Wide Picture released the “Return To The Promise Lane” video in the fall of 1993 It’s still available at retail. This CD contains every recorded spoken word and musical note from that final home video release. It is being heard here for the very first time digital stereo. The honest simplicity and timber of each song needs no apology. 

 

In July Of 1988 Johnny Cash And Mother Carrie Cash Were On Hand For The Opening Of Johnny Cash's Exhibit

As added bonus, we have included four, never-before-heard Johnny Cash songs, solely written by John in 1992. These raw demos were recorded in mid January of 1993 at LSI Studios (Nashville) as a part of a session used expressly for reference (demo) purpose John produced the demo session and used me on no drums. Although these rough-mix demo are not actually associated with “Return To The Promise land” John did write the songs during the same period. To be a small part of the writing, producing or playing on the songs presented here is a personal permanent treasure I could never ably communicate, nor express. The purity and innocence of this disc’s material is what it makes it so enduring. It ’s always about the heart in the music. Most recently, John’s 1996 “Unchained” and June’s “Press On” separate solo CD efforts have both won prestigious Grammy Awards. Notice the album titles have connotations of onward and upward self-movement. Lastly, four years ago, John Cash sang at my father’s funeral. One may only imagine the somber elation I felt by his immense gesture of respect for my late father, Herman Waddell. Words cannot suffice, nor do adequate justice to the appreciation I have and the affection I feel for John. He and June have always treated me like a member of their inner circle. The family circle that won’t be unbroken. 

In that context, I would like to dedicate this Renaissance Records disc release to the forever memory mama Cash. She would greet hundreds of visitors and tourist daily at the Johnny Cash’s Museum with a toot on her wooden train whistle and a spoken sincere and eloquent “come in and feel welcome” She especially loved John’s spiritual music and hymnal recordings. You will hear the late Momma Cash at the end of this CD, in a very special hidden bonus track. As hopefully you have gathered, John and his family have given me numerous cherished gifts. I only desire that you also feel some of the pure bliss that is humbly presented here with this CD, May you get out of it at least a token of the passion that went into making it God Bless Hugh Waddell October 2000   

On September 12, Willie Nelson will release his first .

 

Revised: September 03, 2007

 

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