If you've seen the movie Walk The Line, then you already know an awful lot about Joanne Cash. Yep, she's a member of that Cash family. On the phone from her home in Nashville, Cash assures Soul Shine that the Oscar-winning film illustrated the family's early life correctlyóbut she wants it to be known that her father "wasn't as mean as the movie portrayed him to be."
And so, if you're one of the millions who's seen Walk The Line, then you know Joanne's brother, Jack, was killed in a mill accident at a young age. And you most certainly know that her older brother is Johnny, the legendary Man In Black himself. And if you know that much, then you've already got a handle on Joanne's new album, Gospel, for both siblings make an appearance on the record in one way or another.
"These songs have such a special meaning to me," says Cash. "For instance 'Glory Glory,' my husband [Harry Yates] wrote that song about my brother, Jack, and his terrible accident, and his passing into heaven."
"And 'Softly And Tenderly' was the last song Johnny recorded with me. In the studio that day when we sang 'Let The Lower Lights Be Burning' and 'Softly And Tenderly,' it was a very touching presence of God. The time of recording, it was just precious. I didn't realize at the time that those would be the last two I'd record with him."
In addition to the songs deeply connected with her family, Cash handpicked a handful of gospel covers and standards to be included on her career-spanning retrospective. With 27 albums to her name, Cash had a lot of whittling down to do in order to reach the final 15 included on Gospel.
For those wondering, Johnny sings on three of the tracks, including a version of "When He Comes," which Joanne names as her favourite on the album. "Johnny wrote this in Jerusalem," she explains. "He tells the story on the front of the song before we sing, he says, 'I was in a hotel in Jerusalem, and I opened up my curtains when the sun hit that city, and it looked like it turned gold.'
"And he said, 'A chill came all over me and I felt like that I could be standing on the very spot where Christ will return.' He said he wrote the song just as fast as he could write it. And it's become one of his most popular songs."
Gospel is the biggest promotional release Joanne has ever done, and she's been receiving calls from all over the world to chat about her record (Soul Shine's call comes midway through a full day of interviews). One must assume that Cash grows weary of all the questions, and yet she's more than willing to talk about her family. Clearly, she understands the interest in her relations and is fully embracing of the connection.
"I was born a Cash. I am a CashÖI'll always be a Cash," she says. "The name Cash reminds everybody of music. The name Cash reminds everybody of recordings and singing." It's a statement truly impossible to argue with.
Both Joanne and her brother Tommy continue to record music, but while Tommy dabbles in country, Joanne sings strictly gospel. "All of my recordings are gospel because I made a promise to God in 1970 that I would always sing for Him. And I've kept that promise."
Along with her music career, Cash and her husband pastor the interdenominational Nashville Cowboy Church every Sunday. Because of her commitment to the church, Cash says she'll be limiting her touring (but for those in the area, Joanne performs every week at Opryland). Those who aren't able to catch the singer on stage can look forward to a duets album from Joanne in the future.
Whatever her last name may be, and whatever connections people may draw, Joanne knows her music serves a higher purpose. "I sing these songs because they're from my heart, and I always ask the Lord to bring me the anointing of the Holy Spirit into my music. And I believe you can feel that," she explains.
"What I want people to realize is that if there's one person that can hear my music and come to know Christ, than it's all worth it."
For more information on Joanne Cash, and to sample tracks from her new album, Gospel due out February 20th, please visit www.joannecash.com.
Writer: Jaclyn Arndt