Country music legend Johnny Cash is still releasing new music over a decade after his death. His latest album, Out Among the Stars, consists of lost recordings from the early 1980s and is set to be released on March 25.
The video for the song’s first single “She Used to Love Me A Lot” was directed by John Hillcoat — the filmmaker behind The Road, among other films as well as a plethora of music videos — and features scenes of people down on their luck from across the country who were filmed during a month-long road trip taken by the director. The video also shows images of Cash projected onto broken buildings, as well as an abandoned barn with the words, “My heroes have always killed cowboys” spray painted on it.
“She Used to Love Me A Lot” is being released as a 7-inch single, with the B-side being an alternate version of the song remixed by Elvis Costello. That single was released on Tuesday.
“The lyrics seemed to speak to America as it is now, to the nation that loved him and to the great divide he fought so hard against. This divide has only grown exponentially since he died, so we wanted to show America under this stark light and as a homage to the very reason Cash always wore black: to the shameful increase of the disenfranchised and outsiders,” Hillcoat says of his artistic vision for the video in a press release that was shared with Pitchfork. “At the same time, we wanted to reference the great man’s own struggle and journey from the love of his life to the burnt out ruins of his infamous lake house home, personal photographs, the cave where he tried to take his life but then turned it all around, the place he last recorded in and his last photo before his passing.”
A new Cash album was first reported on at the end of last year, when Cash’s son with June Carter, John Carter Cash, announced that the master tapes for the album were discovered among Johnny and June’s belongings. The album was recorded with pop-country producer Billy Sherrill but was never released. The record came at a low point in Cash’s career when the mainstream Nashville establishment was turning towards a poppier, less authentic country sound. Executives at Columbia weren’t impressed with the recording and dropped Cash from the label without releasing it.
“We were so excited when we discovered this,” John Cash said to the Associated Press. “We were like, my goodness this is a beautiful record that nobody has ever heard. Johnny Cash is in the very prime of his voice for his lifetime. He’s pitch perfect. It’s seldom where there’s more than one vocal take. They’re a live take and they’re perfect.”
“Dad was always uniquely himself. And later on the world would come back around,” Cash said of Columbia’s decision to can the record. “He never modified himself. But Nashville at the time was in a completely different place. It was the ‘Urban Cowboy’ phase. It was pop country, and dad was not that.”
“She Used to Love Me A Lot” thankfully sounds nothing like the pop-country that Columbia executives had originally wanted. Instead, the song is a beautiful country lament that showcases Cash’s iconic and inimitable voice, and is a teaser for a highly-anticipated album full of similar lost gems.
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