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Cash's final American Recording
Johnny Cash - American VI: Ain't No Grave
Review by Tony BonyataLast Friday marked the 78th anniversary of the late, great Johnny Cash's birthday, who passed away in the autumn of 2003 just four months after the death of his beloved wife June Carter Cash. To tie-in with this anniversary, the Cash family and producer Rick Rubin have just released a second posthumous album entitled American VI: Ain't No Grave - the sixth, and presumably, last in the series of remarkable American Recordings albums all produced by Rubin.
The 12 tracks that make uup Ain't No Grave were recorded from the same sessions as Cash's previous posthumous effort American V: A Hundred Highways, and, in a similar vein to that release, these songs are steeped in lost love, regret, the value of friendships, the inevitability of death and, perhaps more than anything else, a powerful sense of faith.
Like all of the Rubin-helmed American Recording albums, this outing features a mix of cover songs - both new and old - along with Cash's own compositions (there's only one on this effort, however, the beautifully frail ballad "I Corinthians: 15:55"). They've also included stirring takes of Sheryl Crow's "Redemption Day" and Pentecostal preacher & singer/songwriter Claude Ely's "Ain't No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down)," as well as moving and bittersweet covers of Tom Paxton's "Where I'm Bound" and close friend Kris Kristofferson's "For The Good Times."
All five previous American Recordings efforts found Cash tapping into a much simpler and honest form of age-old American folk music which helped revive audience interest in his later years - not only in the world of country music, but also crossing over into rock, pop and Americana. Even so, the overall feel of this album is even more tender and frail. This may be, in part, due to the singer's rapidly declining health during the recordings, but as his deep, gruff and honest vocals prove throughout, even when he was standing at death's door The Man In Black was still at the top of his game.
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