Originally recorded as part of Crow’s self-titled second album, Cash then covered the deep-thinking track shortly before his death in 2003, and his version was released on American VI: Ain’t No Grave. Crow wrote it after visiting war-torn Bosnia in the ‘90s, and in an essay written about the newly-redone collaboration, she says Cash connected with the strength of its message – calling on humanity to strive for something better, before it’s too late.
“Johnny was never weak on anything he believed in; he didn’t make it political, but he didn’t stand by and watch,” Crow writes. “Whether he was advocating for Native American Rights, or prison reform, or protesting the Vietnam or Iraq Wars, he did not concern himself with potential career consequences, didn’t worry about not being played on the radio or not selling concert tickets. He just wanted to honor the truth.”
In the Shawn Silva-directed video, the plaintive ballad takes on even more emotional weight. Crow plays a grand piano in a stunning field of grain, while footage of Cash and historic conflicts from around the globe flashes on screen. All the while, a young girl looks on, and that is Crow’s main point. Back in the essay, she says people need to remember that our children are watching – and what they see will shape who they become. She thinks Cash would appreciate her desire to express that idea.
“As a mom, I’m trying to teach my kids virtues like honesty, that the truth does matter and we must treat each other with empathy and compassion,” she says. “And yet I have to shield them from TV news for fear of what they’ll be witness to. How can I not speak to this in my music?”
“Redemption Day” is the first single from what Crow believes will be her final album, a collection of collaborations called Threads. Also featuring duets with Keith Richards, Stevie Nicks, St. Vincent and more, the project is slated for release late this summer.