Interviews

John Carter Cash on the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival, Family Legacy and Working With Loretta Lynn

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This weekend (Oct. 20), hundreds will gather in the small town of Dyess, Arkansas to remember the town's favorite son: Johnny Cash. It's all part of the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival, a three-day festival held at Johnny Cash's childhood home.

The festival will culminate in an all-star tribute concert, headlined by Alison Krauss and Jamey Johnson and featuring Ana Cristina Cash, Suzanne Cox, Heather Barry Mabe, Ira Dean and more. In addition to the concert, the festival will include regional music, food and craft vendors, public presentations and tours. The event will allow attendees to learn more about the Dyess Colony where Cash was born and raised. The agricultural resettlement colony was established in 1934 as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, which aided struggling Arkansas farm families.

The concert, a tribute to the 1968 Johnny Cash Show, was organized by artist and producer John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny Cash and June Carter.

Carter Cash says he chose to focus on the 1968 era of his father, which included Cash's legendary performance at Folsom Prison on Jan. 13, 1968, because it was such a turning point in Cash's life and career.

"The show is laid out in set lists and form pretty much exactly like a Johnny Cash show from that year," Carter Cash tells Wide Open Country. "The music will be a reproduction of a show from that year. My father was at his prime and he wrote about it later in his life -- what it meant to him. It was a very important year in his life. It's a remembrance of that, but also, it's going to sound like nothing that's ever been."

Carter Cash says the festival is a homecoming for the entire family and all those who loved the Man in Black.

"There's a great bit of history there but it's also very close to my heart and my family's heart," Carter Cash says. "Dad kept going back there because he always appreciated the roots that he had. He appreciated the humanity that was part of his very nature and very soul."

Read More: Remembering the Country, Folk and Gospel Showcase 'The Johnny Cash Show'

Carter Cash, who co-produced Loretta Lynn's most recent album Wouldn't It Be Great, says he witnessed his father's strength of character while watching him in the studio making the American Recordings series with producer Rick Rubin.

"My dad's health went downhill throughout those years, between 1998 and 2003," Carter Cash says. "But he continued and persisted. When I listen to those songs and I listen to the work that he did when I was working with him, I hear the strength. There is a frailty. However, the strength is much more defining. That's what I remember. It's not how he shone at his greatest moment. It's how he shone at his greatest struggle and the beautiful work that was created through that time. So that's what I carry with me every day."

The tribute concert certainly isn't the first time Carter Cash has honored his father. Earlier this year, he co-produced Johnny Cash: Forever Wordsa project which paired a multigenerational roster of artists with the undiscovered writings of the Man in Black. Carter Cash says making the album helped him reconnect with his dad.

"Going through my dad's words, I got back in touch with him in many ways. It was like hearing him speak to me again," Carter Cash says. "I was reminded of his brilliance and the diversity of his very nature. There was so much about my dad but when I saw those words it was all in there, every bit of his character and everything about who he is was all there."

As the son of Johnny Cash and June Carter, John Carter carries on the legacy of two monumental figures in country music. But it's another member of country music royalty who's become Carter Cash's most frequent collaborator. In the past decade, he's recorded over 100 songs with Loretta Lynn. And in working with Lynn on her forty-first studio album Wouldn't It Be Great, he also got to co-produce the album with another child of a country legend: Lynn's daughter, Patsy Lynn Russell.

"Patsy Lynn Russell is like my sister," Carter Cash says. "Our parents, my mother and father and Loretta, are cut from the same mold. They were good natured country people who never lost their sense of humor and their energy and their spirit and their humility in many ways...Working with Loretta has been like working with my parents again because she is just like my mom and dad. She has the same kind of spirit."

The Johnny Cash Heritage Festival takes place Oct. 18 through Oct. 20 in Dyess, Arkansas. The Johnny Cash Tribute Concert will be held from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20. To purchase tickets, visit here.

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John Carter Cash on the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival, Family Legacy and Working With Loretta Lynn