Johnny Cash - American V: A Hundred Highways

I picked this up today and it is incredible. His voice is a ruin, but the songs he chose showcase it the way it is, instead of trying to sound the way he used to.

Death is an ever-present shadow over this album. He’s grieving the lost love of his life and he knows he’s dying and he’s pissed and he’s sure as hell not going gently into that good night. God’s Gonna Cut You Down isn’t a tender spiritual; he’s dying and she’s dying and they’re dying and you are, too.

He chokes up at the end of Love’s Been Good to Me, and, wow. Just wow.

He only wrote 2 songs on the album: Like the 309 and I Came To Believe , the rest are written by others, with the exception of the traditional, God’s Gonna Cut You Down .

I think this is a fitting finish to an incredible career. If you like Johnny Cash, you must buy this album.

I haven’t heard the whole album, just a song on radio (think it was NPR) last week. Mr. Cash’s voice sounded, as you say, ruined, but there was still passion in it. It made me cry: the whole force of loving his music, and hearing him right there in the studio til the very end, losing everything. I don’t know of any other musician who’s had the courage to expose his deepest self that way, through old age and impending death.(Later Thought; Warren Zevon did a powerful impending death album as well)

But it makes such sense. Johnny Cash started out as a volatile voice, on the cutting edge of rock & roll, back when it all began with Sun records. He was a wild guy, and exemplified a new force in music, when it was a bold move. He survived his youth, became a country music icon, and certainly could have just settled down on his laurels, to let people remember him in his prime. But the last recordings Rick Rubin did are amazing; they show how great a singer Johnny Cash is: all barebones, without the Nashville hype. Brave, honest, passionate, blessed by a voice that even at it’s dimming point, has the power to move you to tears.

Fitting, incredible, and Go Ahead On, John!

I think Rubin is finishing up VI right now. I believe there were 30 or so songs left and he created V and VI out of them.

The news article that I read mentioned that Cash had a hard time exposing his much weakened voice since it had always been his core musical strength.