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Johnny Cash

American Country

American V 

American VI

 

 

 

JOHNNY CASH

American V - A Hundred Highways - 7.5

Johnny Cash comes to terms with mortality in this CD recorded before and after his death. And with the subject matter and the resurgence of Cash-Mania thanks to the film "Walk the Line" it comes as a timely reminder of the only axiom that there's nothing certain in life except death and taxes. Johnny is no longer concerned with the latter, but this album is anything but mawkish and, despite its depressing content, is somehow shot through with hope. It includes the final song he wrote  "Like the 309". Many of the other songs foretell of Cash's imminent demise but others hark back to happier times and, if the voice is slightly cracked and dusty, it only adds to the overall feel of a successful pre-cursor to the final voyage. "On the Evening Train" tells the story of a widower watching his wife's coffin being loaded onto a train and has obvious overtones of the death of his wife June Carter. In other songs he comes face to face with his maker and some of the titles such as "I'm Free From the Chain Gang Now" scarcely need explanation. Away from the doom and gloom he  covers songs like Gordon Lightfoot's  "If You Could Read My Mind" and Rod McKuen's " Love's Been Good to Me" (from which the title A Hundred Highways comes). Cash has come out of this extremely well considering producer Rick Rubin had to record the album when Cash felt strong enough to sing. Overall the album sits as a fitting epitaph to the Man in Black.

 

American VI - Ain't No Grave - 6

Ain't No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down)/ Redemption Day/ For the Good Times/ I Corinthians 15:55/ Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound/ A Satisfied Mind/ I Don't Hurt Anymore/ Cool Water/ Last Night I had the Strangest Dream/ Aloha Oe.

American VI is the final instalment in the Cash series and perhaps it might be an album too far. Whilst American V was never mawkish and saw a man confronting his mortality in song, this follow up, which came from the same sessions and was recorded in 2003. seems almost as if Cash is trying to convince himself on certain matters. So it doesn't have the immediacy of the previous album. Each song suddenly takes on a life of its own as a piece of redemption (hence the inclusion of Sheryl Crow's Redemption Day). He does inject some original feel to Kris Kristofferson's For the Good Times and Tom Paxton's Can't Help Wonder Where I'm Bound" speaks for itself. Less successful is the Cash original taken from the book of Corinthians straight from the Bible and there is a tired feel to Cool Water and Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream. As a legacy and reminder of the Man in Black this is a fitting epitaph, as an album in its own right it is passable.