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American V: A Hundred Highways - Johnny Cash

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Genre: Country - Traditional Country / Artist: Johnny Cash / Audio CD released 2006-07-03 at Mercury Records Ltd (London)

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      07.08.2006 12:38
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      A posthumous record of amazing depth and emotion.

      Between 1994 and his death in 2003, Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin collaborated to record some of Cash's finest and most popular material; the American series. American V comes after both Cash's death and his enormously successful cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" on the American IV album (his most successful record since At San Quentin). Released nearly 3 years on from his death, American V is a collection of Johnny Cash's final recordings with Rick Rubin.

      Credits
      Johnny Cash - Vocals
      Smokey Hormel - Guitar
      Pat McLaughlin - Guitar
      Jonny Polonsky - Guitar
      Benmont Tench - Piano, Organ, Harpsichord
      Randy Scruggs - Guitar
      Rick Rubin - Production, Liner notes


      Almost as soon as he utters his first couple of words on "Help Me" - the opener of American V - it becomes obvious that this collection of Cash's final recordings is a wholly personal and thoughtful record from a man nearing the end of his life. American V is a posthumous collection of the final recordings Cash did with Rick Rubin before his death. Rick Rubin has an incredible sense of the best way in which to frame Cash’s faltering and aging voice. He finds a way of concealing mistakes and conjuring up authority from the quivers and crags in Cash’s voice largely due to the predominantly acoustic tracks that were recorded on top of Cash’s vocals. Because his death came before he could record anything else, American V consists solely of Cash's vocal tracks with overdubs that were later added by Rubin. Cash was never a technically proficient singer, but if anything, that small fact is what made Cash so fantastic as a performer. Like the rest of his albums in the American series, American V is what it is because of Cash's vocal performance. Not because his voice was "good" in the technical sense, but because it was capable of delivering such an amazing emotional range. American V is no exception and one only needs to look at the back-to-back combination of "Like the 309" (reportedly the last song Cash wrote and recorded) and "If You Could Read My Mind". The former makes use of a fast tempo and Cash's deep and confidant swagger. The latter, on the other hand, is a subdued track which is brought to life by Cash's soft, vulnerable and intimate vocal performance. Though Cash's death may have given these songs a greater impact (one can't listen to this record without the knowledge that it comes after his death), were he still alive, American V would still undoubtedly be one of Cash's best records.

      Even more so than the other American recordings, American V is primarily concerned with death. Cover songs such as "Help Me" (a Larry Gatlin song) and "On The Evening Train" (a Hank Williams cover) lyrically concern themselves with death while Cash's original "Like The 309" is a song about his coffin being taken away on a train. Even songs which aren't directly written about death (Bruce Springsteen's "Further On (Up The Road)" and Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind") sound like songs about death simply because of the way Cash delivers them. Other songs on the album deal with the subjects of faith and love, most notably the Cash original "I Came to Believe" and "Rose of My Heart". "I Came to Believe" is a simple but beautiful song about Cash's Christian faith. The lyrics are very simple and straight-forward, but are remarkably beautiful, due in no small part to Cash's vocal performance. And that's what's so great about the song, the beauty is due to it's simplicity. Lyrics such as "And I came to believe in a power much higher than I/I came to believe that I needed help to get by/In childlike faith I gave in and gave him a try/And I came to believe in a power much higher than I" are made incredible simply through Cash's sincerity in his vocal performance.

      Johnny Cash may never have heard Rick Rubin's overdubs, but it's a good bet that had he been around to hear the musical performance on this album, he would have thoroughly approved. The music is incredibly subdued, only existing to support Cash's vocals; there is very little percussion and most of the guitar work consists of quiet fingerpicking. Pianos and organs make appearances in some of the songs while cellos also provide backing throughout. The clear production on each of the songs is also a great enhancement to the record. Though his health was failing, he was confined to a wheelchair and had just lost his beloved wife, Cash was able to make one of the best albums of his career. Cash and Rubin's collaboration was a wonderful way to “end” Johnny Cash's career and A Hundred Highways is as amazing a posthumous recording as anyone could hope for.

      Recommended Songs:
      God's Gonna Cut You Down
      Like the 309
      If You Could Read My Mind
      On the Evening Train

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    • Product Details

      Disc #1 Tracklisting
      1 Help Me
      2 God's Gonna Cut You Down
      3 Like The 309
      4 If You Could Read My Mind
      5 Further On Up The Road
      6 On The Evening Train
      7 I Came To Believe
      8 Love's Been Good To Me
      9 A Legend In My Time
      10 Rose Of My Heart
      11 Four Strong Winds
      12 I'm Free From The Chain Gang Now