Saturday, February 20, 2010

Johnny Cash American VI: Ain't No Grave

I haven't done many music reviews lately, but then there hasn't been an album that moved me like this one in a long time. It was recorded in the last months of Johnny Cash's life, when he sometimes didn't feel well enough to sing. But he wanted to get the work done, and he did. Although his voice was a ragged remnant of what it had once been, it's just as powerful as ever in a different way.

The songs take on a new meaning in the context their recording. And oldie like "For the Good Times," for example. Wow. I'd never thought of it as the farewell of a dying man before, but what a statement. "I Corinthians 15:55," a Cash original is right out the New Testament, and you can tell he believes every word he's singing. Sheryl Crow's "Redemption Day" never sounded like this (and never sounded better). Another oldie, "A Satisfied Mind," has been recorded by dozens of singers before, but it never resonated the way it does when Cash lays it down in his final days. "Can't Help but Wonder Where I'm Bound" and "Last Night I had the Strangest Dream" knocked me out. But then so did the other nine songs on the CD. The album closes with "Aloha Oe." Just great.

Look at the photo on the CD cover. I wonder if the smiling little kid there ever thought about what his life would be like. Could anybody ever have imagined what lay ahead of him, all the ups and downs, the fame and the falls, or what the end would be? If you can listen to this album without getting misty-eyed, you're a lot tougher than I am.


Anonymous said...

I liked "For the Good Times" when Ray Price did it, but I forgot it was written by Kris Kristofferson.

That reminds me we saw the latter performing with Cash, Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennngs as The Highwaymen in Central Park.

Anyway, sounds like a CD worth having.


Anonymous said...

Haven't heard this one yet but I have the but I have the boxed set of his American recordings. Rick Rubin was the best thing to happen to Johnny Cash for years. His recording of Nine Inch Nails Hurt sends chills up my spine everytime I hear it.