Unearthed is an initiative of the Australian radio station Triple J, dedicated to 'unearthing' or exposing Australian musicians and giving them a chance to recieve airplay and recording opportunities.

The Unearthed crew target an area of Australia and accept demo recordings from artists in the area, which are then compared to others from the same area. The only prerequisites for being unearthed is that you are not a signed act and you have one original track that you can enter on CD format. Regional winners are chosen and unearthed - eventually one band/musician will be chosen from these artists and given extensive support.

Since 1995 Unearthed has discovered more than 80 artists, some of which are Killing Heidi, Endorphin, Andalusion and Grinspoon. By the end of 2003 every area of Australia will have had the chance to be unearthed.


Released on November 25, 2003, Unearthed is a boxed collection containing unreleased songs from Johnny Cash’s collaborations with producer Rick Rubin. The four released albums from that time spanned the final 9 years of Cash’s life and created what many consider to be his greatest recordings.

Inside the simple black box are two black booklets. Inside the first, simply labeled “TEXT”, you will find 107 pages of liner notes and photographs. There is an extensive interview where Cash and Rubin detail how they began their musical partnership, and how a 61 year-old washed-up country legend from Arkansas developed an unlikely friendship with a 30 year-old rap producer from New York. The pair discuss each and every song featured in the set, their feelings about the songs and reasons for recording them.

The second booklet (“MUSIC”) contains the individual track listings and credits for each disc in the set, complete with even more pictures. The discs themselves come in five sleeves that act as more pages in the book.

Volume I – Who’s Gonna Cry

  1. Long Black Veil
  2. Flesh & Blood
  3. Just The Other Side
  4. If I Give My Soul
  5. Understand Your Man
  6. Banks Of The Ohio
  7. Two Timing Woman
  8. The Caretaker
  9. Chunk Of Coal
  10. I'm Going To Memphis
  11. Breaking Bread
  12. Waiting For A Train
  13. Casey
  14. No Earthly Good
  15. The Fourth Man In The Fire
  16. Dark As A Dungeon
  17. Book Review
  18. Down There By The Train

The first disc is filled with rarities from the original American Recordings sessions. All of the songs here are pretty much as simple as music can get: Johnny Cash, alone with his acoustic guitar and apocalyptic voice, singing of the human condition. With these tools you are guided through a world of love and pain. Through the lives of the victorious and the downtrodden. The standout tracks include “Understand Your Man” and “Two-Timing Woman”, two up-tempo songs about men who are fed-up with their women. These two also bookend the excellent “Banks of the Ohio,” a visceral and saddening murder ballad. Rather disappointing is the stripped-down version of “I’m Going To Memphis”, which simply pales in comparison to the “chain gang-as-percussionist” version found on the recent Cash release Murder.

Also of note is Track 17 (“Book Review”) where Cash discusses his feelings about a book by Kahlil Gibran he was reading at the time.

Volume II – Trouble In Mind

  1. Pochohantas
  2. I'm A Drifter (Version 1, Heartbreaker version)
  3. Trouble In Mind
  4. Down The Line
  5. I'm Movin' On
  6. As Long As
  7. Heart Of Gold
  8. The Running Kind (with Tom Petty)
  9. Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby (with Carl Perkins)
  10. Brown-Eyed Handsome Man (with Carl Perkins)
  11. T Is For Texas
  12. Devil's Right Hand
  13. I'm A Drifter (Version 2, Flea version)
  14. Like A Soldier (with Willie Nelson)
  15. Drive On (Alt Lyrics)
  16. Bird On A Wire (Live with orchestra)

Volume II is a more conventional music collection as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers now back Johnny’s guitar and voice on almost every track. The album displays a heavy blues influence and is much more raucous and merry (at least as merry as Johnny Cash can get) than the others in the collection. The two different versions of “I’m A Drifter” are able to display the ability of Cash’s voice to adapt and thrive in almost any situation. The piano and tambourine on the Heartbreaker version almost turn the song into a piece of pop music confection, while the raggedy Flea version becomes a bluesy ode to late nights and last calls.

The exceptional cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” stands head and shoulders above everything else on this volume and I’m willing to state it might become one of my favorite songs of all-time.

Volume III – Redemption Songs

  1. A Singer Of Songs
  2. The L & N Don't Stop Here Anymore
  3. Redemption Song (with Joe Strummer)
  4. Father & Son (with Fiona Apple)
  5. Chattanooga Sugarbabe
  6. He Stopped Loving Her Today
  7. Hard Times
  8. Wichita Lineman
  9. Cindy (with Nick Cave)
  10. Big Iron
  11. Salty Dog
  12. Gentle On My Mind
  13. You Are My Sunshine
  14. You'll Never Walk Alone
  15. The Man Comes Around (Early Version)

After the excellence of Volume II, the next disc is a bit of a letdown. It feels like just a regular collection of songs in the standard Johnny Cash vein. There is nothing terrible, but also nothing truly special (with one glorious exception). The duet with Fiona Apple on “Father & Son” is much better than their sucky, whiny version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” that was featured on Solitary Man. If they had this lying around, why did that other piece of junk make the album?

As for the one amazing exception, all I can say is this: Johnny Cash. Joe Strummer. Redemption Song. Know it, love it.

Volume IV – My Mother’s Hymn Book

  1. Never Grow Old
  2. I Shall Not Be Moved
  3. I Am A Pilgrim
  4. Do Lord
  5. When The Roll
  6. If We Never Meet Again This Side Of Heaven
  7. I'll Fly Away
  8. Where The Soul Of Man Never Dies
  9. Let The Lower Lights Be Burning
  10. When He Reached Down
  11. In The Sweet Bye And Bye
  12. I'm Bound For The Promised Land
  13. In The Garden
  14. Softly & Tenderly
  15. Just As I Am

This volume is an assortment of stripped-down religious songs that before his death Cash had hailed as his own favorite work. Being a non-religious person despite (or perhaps because of) my heavily Catholic upbringing, I have always found myself with an inability to connect with any overtly Christian music. Johnny Cash was always somewhat of an exception to this because so many of his songs about religion display a heavy sense of conflict about the role God might play, mirroring some of my own feelings on the subject. This collection however, is very warm and straightforward about Cash’s relationship with Jesus, making me unsuitable to recommend it.

Volume V – Best of Cash on American

  1. Delia's Gone
  2. Bird On A Wire
  3. Thirteen
  4. Rowboat
  5. The One Rose
  6. Rusty Cage
  7. Southern Accents
  8. Mercy Seat
  9. Solitary Man
  10. Wayfaring Stranger
  11. One
  12. Hung My Head
  13. The Man Comes Around
  14. We'll Meet Again
  15. Hurt

The last disc is a rather perfunctory ending to the set and is just a greatest hits CD of Johnny’s four American Recordings albums. It’s nice to have them around, but if someone is a big enough fan to shell out $65 for this box set, don’t you think they already own the other albums in the series? For anyone who doesn’t have the other albums, this volume is definitely a worthwhile addition, with standout tracks like “Delia’s Gone” and “The Man Comes Around”, and great covers of “Solitary Man”, “One” (which blows U2 out of the water) and “Hurt.” "Mercy Seat" always kind of freaked me out, though.

Overall, Unearthed is an excellent overview of the final decade in the life of one of the greatest singers in American history. It is simply a must-listen for any fan of Johnny Cash and for anyone interested in the roots and history of American music.

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