Johnny Cash: Forever Words is an upcoming compilation of various artists performing songs based on poetry written by Johnny Cash. Produced by John Carter Cash, Johnny and June Carter Cash’s son, the album is due out April 6. It features guest spots by Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, Jewel, John Mellencamp, and notably the late Chris Cornell, whose mournful setting of Cash’s “You Never Knew My Mind” was released last month. Today, Elvis Costello has posted his contribution to the album: an elaborately orchestrated piano ballad featuring Cash’s poem “I’ll Still Love You.”
In no way a country song, Costello’s composition brings to mind the likes of Harry Nilsson and Paul McCartney with, thanks to its jazz chording and crooner inflections, a touch of Frank Sinatra. In a video interview posted with the song, Costello implied that he went with a distinctly non-Johnny-Cash-like approach because he didn’t hear Cash’s musical sensibility in the poem: “I knew right away it wasn’t to be played. You could hear his musical voice on many of the lyrics on the page[s in the folio of poems], but not this one; not to me anyway. I heard something completely different.”
Listen to “I’ll Still Love You” and watch Costello’s accompanying interview below.