Johnny Cash - American VI: Ain't No Grave

2010-03-24 14:45
 
American VI: Ain't No Grave
 

It's now well accepted that Rick Rubin's collaborations with Johnny Cash produced some of the Man In Black's greatest career pieces. American Recordings VI was released posthumously this year, and clearly carries a little extra emotional baggage for fans.

Thing is, there's a caveat in collecting everyone who claims to love Cash nowadays into one neat little target for this review. Being unfamiliar with the larger Cash framework, the majority of casual listeners settle for the romantic gestures that were the movie Walk The Line, or even just that one song "Ring of Fire", which up till recently was a staple request at all hipster parties (and is more perhaps accurately credited to June Carter at any rate).

But it's really Cash's corking sympathetic delivery of great songs that at least Rubin seems to respect. The minimal, essentially acoustic arrangements of these ten songs, as with most of the other American Recordings, centre the focus firmly on Cash's voice.

That voice may sound slightly frail on these presumably final recordings, but it is no less affecting, authoritative or touching in its straightforwardness. The song has a tune, and Cash sings the tune, albeit with a working man's hoarseness, a labourer's bluntness, and a believing man's sincerity.

The set list does not contain any of the contemporary pop surprises that permeated the previous volumes – Sheryl Crow's "Redemption Day" notwithstanding. It does though contain one credited original; a titled religious verse: "I Corinthians 15:55".

This is the album of a man who has lived a life of both adventure and tragedy, of joy and happiness, but who ultimately has no regrets. There's a message here of spiritual triumph over potential sorrow – "Ain't no grave gonna hold my body down" go the opening lyrics, and that belief is really at the heart of an album-long message that will transcend both Mr. Cash's Christian values and an agnostic's bitter cynicism.

As the closing track – the classic Hawaiian theme "Aloha Oe" – lilts along towards its final chord, Cash almost seems to turn and look back at us one more time, smiling, as he sings "...until we meet again", and you feel obliged to tearfully tip your hat to a true American legend.

Slower, quieter and much more meditative than the Cash hipsters love, American VI is a fitting farewell to a true American legend.

JuanM 2010/03/25 8:22 AM
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Awesome review! Simple, eloquent, and a real grasp of the artist and music.
VJ 2010/03/26 12:31 PM
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This is an emotional and misguided review. I've got the american recordings 3,4 and 5 collaborations between cash en rubin. The first 2 tracts stands out but it goes downhill from there. It feels thinned out. Almost as if Rubin took the very last few songs and placed it on the disc. Itis not as good as this review makes it out to be. Not at all.
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