Johnny Cash was working on his the fifth album in his acclaimed ''American Recordings'' series of CDs for producer Rick Rubin at the time of his death last month at age 71. He had dozens of songs in the can and was hoping to whittle down the list for a single-disc release early next year. Instead, the American Recordings/Lost Highway label announced on Wednesday, Cash's next ''American'' release will be the aptly-titled ''Cash Unearthed,'' a five-CD boxed set with 79 tracks, 64 of them previously unreleased.
The unheard tracks, recorded over the last decade in Cash's ''American'' sessions with Rubin, make up the first four discs, each of which has its own title and theme. Songs on the first three discs (''Who's Gonna Cry,'' ''Trouble in Mind'' and ''Redemption Songs'') include several duets, such as Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" with Joe Strummer, ''Gentle on My Mind'' with Glen Campbell, ''The Running Kind'' with Tom Petty, Cat Stevens' "Father and Son" with Fiona Apple, Chuck Berry's "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" with the late Carl Perkins, "Cindy" with Nick Cave, and "Like a Soldier" with Willie Nelson. Other highlights, the label says, are Cash's renditions of Steve Earle's "Devil's Right Hand", Roy Orbison's "Down the Line" and Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" and "Pocahontas.''
Disc 4, called ''My Mother's Hymn Book,'' is a collection of hymns Cash learned as a child. Disc 5, ''Best of Cash on American,'' contains hits from his four Grammy-winning albums for Rubin, including ''Delia's Gone,'' ''The Man Comes Around,'' and Cash's famously elegaic cover of Nine Inch Nails' ''Hurt.'' The set also includes a clothbound, 104-page book of liner notes, featuring an extensive conversation between Cash and Rubin and commentary by daughter Rosanne Cash, son John Carter Cash, Tom Petty, and others. The release date is Nov. 25.