Taking the "Rural Route"

Here are a few updates on John's current activities-with the usual caveat that everything is subject to change.

The tentative title of John's long-awaited box set is "On the Rural Route 7609." Clever readers will decipher the title as a reference to the fact that John's first album, "Chestnut Street Incident," was released in 1976, hence the number 7609 is a reference to the fact that the box spans John's recording career from 1976 to the present 2009.

The box will contain four CDs, with at least 72 tracks. John and veteran record company a&r executive and producer Steve Berkowitz are still working on the artwork and the audio contents, but the set will highlight alternate takes of classic songs. "Some of them show me actually in the process of writing them," says John, "so there's a lot of stopping and starting up again-a lot of head-scratching. It's turned into quite a project."

Prior to the box set, though, will come "Life Death Live Freedom," an eight-song live album of "Life, Death, Love & Freedom" tracks ("If I Die Sudden," "My Sweet Love," "Jena," "A Ride Back Home," "Young Without Lovers," "Don't Need This Body," "Longest Days" and "Troubled Land"), scheduled for release on June 23. And that's completely live, by the way, with no studio enhancements.

Meanwhile, casting continues for the projected "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County" CD/book package involving a recording of the songs and the dialog of John's musical collaboration with Stephen King. No word yet on who's on board, but several major artists have signed on.

Finally, a few words from John on last week's extraordinary Pete Seeger birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden: "I had a wonderful time seeing and hearing so many great artists. And Pete, of course: It's a pretty amazing accomplishment to have written as many great songs as Pete has, that have become so much a part of the landscape of America."