Cornel West and Joanne Woodward Star on "On The Rural Route 7609"

As has been previously reported, John's forthcoming box set "On The Rural Route 7609" will include versions of some of his classic songs other then the well known ones in general release. At least two of them are particularly innovative takes on the material and are freshly recorded by two iconic individuals who are not generally associated with music recordings.

Dr. Cornel West recites the lyrics to "Jim Crow" which originated as a duet with Joan Baez on 2007's "Freedom Road." The renowned author/lecturer proves an inspired pairing with John's lyric that addresses the tenacity of racism in American culture.

West's 1993 bestseller "Race Matters" established him as one of America's most eloquent voices on the racial divide. In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, he is called "the pre-eminent intellectual of our generation," and in its recent "RS 100: Agents of Change" listing, the magazine called him "one of the most eloquent - and entertaining - public intellectuals" and "our wisest voice on race in the Age of Obama." His contribution to "Rural Route 7609," spoken in a street-wise tone, was recorded in his office at Princeton where he serves as University Professor in the Center for African American Studies.

Joanne Woodward, whom John called his favorite actress in his recent CMT Network interview, likewise provides an emotionally charged reading of the lyrics to "The Real LIfe" that give the key track from John's 1987 album "The Lonesome Jubilee" a new perspective. The renowned actress, who received the "Best Actress" Oscar for her work in "The Three Faces of Eve" and has been nominated for her work in three other films, delivers the lines of the song in an accent that reflects her Georgia birth. Now 79, Woodward turns the song's lyrics into an urgent poem about once-young people approaching middle-age but still wanting to live the real life "close to the bone" instead of sitting around the house and watching television. The performance, recorded at her home in Westport, CT is uniquely dramatic and touching.

The four-disc "On the Rural Route 7609" is due for release later this year. Meanwhile, John is working on his next album of new material, tentatively-titled "No Better Than This."