Nine-time GRAMMY Award-winner Sheryl Crow believes in the transformative power music, and the release a duet with the late Johnny Cash, “Redemption Day,” is a clear indication the world does too. “This song has had a lot different lives,” says Crow the track that originally appeared on her Grammy-winning, triple platinum album Sheryl Crow in 1996. “It’s led me to some strange and interesting opportunities.” This song marks one those times as a re-recorded version leads her forthcoming album on The Valory Music Co., slated for late summer.
A catalyst to writing “Redemption Day,” Crow visited Bosnia with then-First Lady Hillary Clinton unbeknownst a storied history spanning more than 20 years would follow. “I’d never been anywhere even close to a war-torn area,” Crow expresses the trip, where she visited military bases, played for troops and met with families. But when she returned home, the news was covering the ongoing genocide in Rwanda. Sifting through feelings confusion – “We had all these resources tied up in Bosnia, and I kept thinking about how and why do we choose where to get involved. Is it desire for control, greed for oil—what is it?” – she sat down to write a song. At the time, her hope was actually to write about a break-up, but instead, out came a “diatribe from somewhere in my subconscious,” challenging the motivation and machinery war.
In 2003, one Cash’s sons-in-law played “Redemption Day” for the Man in Black, who then wanted to talk to her. “He asked a lot questions about different lines and what I meant,” says Crow. “He didn’t want to put his voice to the song without being able to believe it heart and soul.”
Cash recorded the song and told Crow that he felt it was the cornerstone his next album, but his version wasn’t released until 2010’s American VI: Ain’t No Grave album. While on tour in 2014, Crow performed “Redemption Day” as a duet with Cash’s recording, projecting his image onstage — which inspired her to approach his estate with the idea re-recording a collaboration their voices for her new project.
Director Shaun Silva coupled footage Cash next to scenes a young child watching history unfold, in all its tragedy and triumph, throughout the “Redemption Day” music video as a somber yet hopeful Crow carries the melody. “As a mom two young kids,” says Crow, “I see that our kids watch what we do on their behalf and how we shape their future. They’re privy to everything visual, especially now, and there’s no way to shield your child from the roughness reality. If we could see the world through a child’s eyes, we would make different decisions.”
Incorporating Cash into the project – alongside songs with other friends from Keith Richards to Stevie Nicks to St. Vincent – is more meaningful to Crow than just the sound and memory one America’s greatest icons. “With what’s happening in our nation now, and how dire things look, to have Johnny’s voice fers some hope,” she says. “Knowing how he felt about the song, I feel pretty certain that he would have some wisdom to impart about what’s happening now and who we are becoming. I hope that wherever he is, he feels proud to be a part it — I certainly feel his presence in the song.”