On This Date: Johnny Cash Began Recording His Iconic ‘American Recordings’ Album In 1993

Johnny Cash country music

It’s hard to believe that Johnny Cash needed an album to “bring him back” onto the good side of record sales. After struggling financially with records in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, American Recordings officially kicked off a career resurgence for Cash.

The album was the 81st for the Country Music Hall of Famer, and the way he approached it was quite unique when it comes to sitting down and recording an album.

Cash’s comeback might not have been possible if not for well known producer Rick Rubin, who sympathized with Johnny after the country music artist was being written off by the music industry. Rubin’s label was actually named American Recordings and was better known for producing heavy metal and rap music rather than country music.

Cash had been suffering from health issues amid his relapse from his drug addiction, yet when he performed at Bob Dylan’s 30th anniversary concert in the later months of 1992, Rick Rubin still saw plenty of potential in the veteran musician.

Rubin approached Cash about working on a potential album, to which Johnny was very skeptical. However, when Rubin mentioned “full creative control,” it kicked off a conversation that allowed for the two men to get to know each other, eventually swaying Cash to sign on for the project.

Thus, 81 albums into his career, Cash recorded an album solo without the help of any other musicians. You might think that Johnny went to the best-of-the-best music studio to record the comeback album, but that was far from what transpired.

Johnny Cash, equipped only with his weathered voice and guitar, recorded almost all of the album in Rick Rubin’s living room and/or his own Tennessee cabin. Two of the songs (“The Man Who Couldn’t Cry,” “Tennessee Stud”) were recorded live at a Los Angeles nightclub called the Viper Room. The legendary music producer Rubin supervised the entire recording process.

After two separate recording sessions, the album was set for a 1994 release date. Originally named Def American, the title was eventually changed to American Recordings (after the label it was produced underneath) before it became available on April 26th, 1994.

Rubin wanted to bring Cash back to his original recording style and strip down the performance to its simplest form, which is what Johnny was consequently best at. As soon as it was released, American Recordings was met with almost universal acclaim by critics. Since then, the album has been ranked 364th on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 greatest albums of all time and is considered to be one of Cash’s best recordings of his entire storied career.

You most likely will recognize a couple of the tunes from the 13-time Grammy winner as you read through American Recordings track list:

1. “Delia’s Gone”

2. “Let the Train Blow the Whistle”

3. “The Beast in Me”

4. “Drive On”

5. “Why Me Lord?”

6. “Thirteen”

7. “Oh, Bury Me Not (Introduction: A Cowboy’s Prayer)”

8. “Bird on a Wire”

9. “Tennessee Stud” (Live)

10. “Down There by the Train”

11. “Redemption”

12. “Like a Soldier”

13. “The Man Who Couldn’t Cry” (Live)

It’s hard to pick out a favorite from the album, but here’s my personal top three songs from the album.

The way it is recorded makes the songs come off simple, yet simultaneously very personal. I recommend that you listen to the album from front to back and develop your own top three (if you can narrow it down to just three):

“The Beast In Me”



Legendary Music Producer Rick Rubin Shares His Creative Process

Listen up, artists… Rick Rubin is speaking.

You may not be familiar with the name Rick Rubin, but you’re certainly familiar with his work.

He’s a producer that has worked with some of the biggest acts in music, like Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, and, in Country, The Chicks and  American series, which includes Johnny’s now iconic final album American IV: The Man Comes Around, which featured his all-time great cover of “Hurt”.

He recently released a book titled The Creative Act: A Way Of Being, a distillation of the wisdom he’s gained over the years and observations about how we can all reach our creative goals.

To promote this book, he’s been doing the new school media tour, visiting various podcasts, including one of my absolute favorites, The Huberman Lab Podcast, hosted by neuroscientist and Stanford professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology Andrew Huberman.

Their conversation runs three hours long, but includes some incredible discussions about music, mental functions, focus, and truly a countless number of topics, but the one that is perhaps the most important is creativity, namely Rick’s creative process and advice he has for others best utilize their own.

When asked what his own process is, he had this to say:

“When I engage in a particular project, whatever it is, I dedicate all of myself for that period of time, whatever it is, whether it be 20 minutes or 5 hours, total focus and no outside distractions whatsoever. 

And when I leave that process, I do my best not to think about it when I’m away from it. I don’t bring any materials with me, I don’t leave the studio with works in progress and spend time listening to them during the day… I stay as far away from it when I’m not directly engaging in it as best as possible, and in the best of situations I have something else to totally engage myself in in-between.

So instead of working on project A for 5 hours and then leaving and doing nothing, I’m hoping to engage in a project B, or B, C, and D with all of myself before going back to project A again.”

At the inquiry of Andrew, he goes on to say that he believes your brain is subconsciously working on the project without you thinking about it and that’s where a lot of insights will come from that you wouldn’t reach if you didn’t let go of it for awhile.

Certainly different that a lot of the “grindset” mentality so many online influencers are pushing these days…

I can’t wait to fully listen to this conversation.

I respect both of these guys so much and the amount of knowledge that is shared is truly outstanding.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock