:: Wednesday, August 23, 2006 ::
Music review: Johnny Cash's American V: A Hundred Highways
Johnny Cash - American V: A Hundred HighwaysIf you thought Johnny Cash had created the ultimate capstone to his career with the 2002 release, American IV: The Man Comes Around, then you're in for a treat. The fifth and final release in the legendary musician's American series with producer Rick Rubin, American V: A Hundred Highways, is even more powerful and more touching.

The album is finely crafted and mostly unadorned. Cash's signature voice -- a quivering, unsteady, sometimes ghostly voice, worn by time, but as rough-hewn and full of conviction as ever -- is at center stage here. The supporting cast of musicians, including six different guitarists, never gets in the way of The Man.

It's obvious that Cash was in a race with "Doctor Death" on this album. The first three tunes -- "Help Me" (written by Larry Gatlin), "God's Gonna Cut You Down" (traditional country gospel) and "Like the 309" (Cash himself) -- all have to do with death and dying. "God's Gonna Cut You Down" is a come-to-Jesus sermonette, a word of warning to the long-tongued liars, ramblers, gamblers and backbiters from one who knows, set to a backwater-blues guitar and rhythmic hand claps that portend ultimate judgment.("As sure as God made black and white," Cash sings, "what's done in the dark will be brought to the light.") "Like the 309" is a dying man's request that his head be kept cool when they "put me in my box on the 309."
Take me the depot, put me to bed
Blow an electric fan on my gnarly old head
Everybody take a look, see I'm doing fine
And load my box on the 309
Cash addresses death on other tracks, too -- most notably his amazing cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Further On (Up the Road)," which was part of Springsteen's post-9/11 album The Rising. Despite the subject matter and Cash's ghostly vocals, the songs don't come off as depressing or macabre. Instead, they come off as hopeful, reflecting Cash's deep faith in God and his place in eternity.

Death is not the only subject on this CD. Love is another. "Rose of My Heart," written by Hugh Moffatt, is a love song Cash seems to be singing to the spirit of his deceased wife, June Carter, whom he soon joined in eternity. He breathed new life into Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind," a song I never much cared for until I heard this cover.

Up to the end, Cash made beautiful music. Listening to American V, it's obvious he loved what he was doing. What a wonderful way to live a life, and what a wonderful final work from a true musical master.

Footnote: Billboard reports that American V is at the top of the charts. It's Cash's first No. 1 album since 1969, when Johnny Cash at San Quentin was there.

Tags: , ,

:: Andrew 07:23 + ::

bloggedy blog recommends

Save the Net

bloggedy pod (my podcast page)

Independent hotels
in Missouri

Get Firefox!


eMusic's Power Charts: The Most Interactive Music Charts Online.

Never Mind the Bibles

In rotation

What I've been listening to lately. Click album cover or hyperlink to hear track samples and learn more.

Sermon on Exposition Boulevard Rickie Lee Jones, Sermon on Exposition Boulevard

Children Running Through Patty Griffin, Children Running Through

Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

Tones of Town Field Music, Tones of Town

The Girl Collection De Bossen, The Girl Collection

Robbers & Cowards Cold War Kids, Robbers & Cowards

Carinvore Simon Dawes, Carnivore

Until Death Comes Frida Hyvonen, Until Death Comes

Tratore Basics 2: New Brazilian Rock Tratore Basics Vol. 2, Novo Rock Brazil

Modern Times Yusuf: An Other Cup

Modern Times The Beatles: Love

Two Thousand The French Kicks: Two Thousand

Paper Television The Blow: Paper Television

Freedom Haters Unite! A Bloodshot Records Sampler, Vol. 1 Freedom Haters Unite! A Bloodshot Records Sampler

Beast Moans Swan Lake: Beast Moans

Prototypes Prototypes: Prototypes

Violence Is Golden Scanners: Violence Is Golden

Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives Voxtrot: Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives

Your Biggest Fan Voxtrot: Your Biggest Fan

Translate Macon Greyson: Translate

Get Evens The Evens: Get Evens

Veruca Salt IV Veruca Salt: Veruca Salt IV

Modern Times Bob Dylan: Modern Times

Look Your Best Pink Tuscadero: Look Your Best

Blue On Blue Leigh Nash: Blue on Blue

I Am  Not Afraid Of  You And I Will Beat Your Ass Yo La Tengo: I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

Boys and Girls in America The Hold Steady: Boys and Girls in America

The Longest Meow Bobby Bare Jr.: The Longest Meow"

Hello Love The Be Good Tanyas: Hello Love

The Lemonheads The Lemonheads: The Lemonheads

Ben Kweller Ben Kweller: Ben Kweller

We Are The Pipettes The Pipettes: We Are the Pipettes

Surprise Paul Simon: Surprise

Sev7en Exene Cervenka and the Original Sinners: Sev7en

A Hundred Highways Johnny Cash: American V: A Hundred Highways

For the Best of Us The John Doe Thing: For the Best of Us

Runaway Bombshell The Fondas: Runaway Bombshell

Flat-Pack Philosophy Buzzcocks: Flat Pack Philosophy

Citrus Asobi Seksu: Citrus

The Loon Tapes 'n Tapes: The Loon

2006 Pitchfork Music Festival Sampler Various Artists: 2006 Pitchfork Music Festival Sampler (24 free tracks)

News and Tributes The Futureheads: News and Tributes

Zoysia The Bottle Rockets: Zoysia

Let's Get Out of This Country Camera Obscura: Let's Get Out of This Country

Bang Bang Rock & Roll Art Brut: Bang Bang Rock & Roll

A Blessing and a Curse Drive By Truckers: A Blessing and a Curse

Broken Boy Soldiers The Raconteurs: Broken Boy Soldiers

The Life Pursuit Belle and Sebastian: The Life Pursuit

The Greatest Cat Power: The Greatest

bloggedy tags

from our sponsors

for your viewing pleasure

the Richard Show

where in the world?

Locations of visitors to this page