Recordings: Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways

    The legends of American music are enveloped in a force field of respect that transcends critique and general standards — any material they offer to us mortals is treated differently than if it had come from an unknown.

    Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways

    Though this is perhaps unfair, it is, in this case, deserved. Over his lifetime, Johnny Cash narrated decades of the poor, humble man’s experience, connecting with the nation on a level that held sturdy through the last of his days. The dying strains and painful reminiscences handed down to us here from a man we so love and admire carry an epic sorrow and strike chords of painful age inside ourselves that a newcomer or imitator could never reach.

    Cash’s last album, the eerily posthumous A Hundred Highways, doesn’t reach the range or skill of any other in the American series, but an added element of untouchable greatness reverberates throughout the collection (mostly covers) detailing what was most important in Cash’s life: His wife and lover, June Carter Cash, a simple country life and newfound faith.

    Producer and dear friend Rick Rubin keeps the background small to illuminate the withering rumble of what will be a forever-recognizable voice, singing to its people with all remaining breath. If death made sound, it would be Johnny Cash steadily pushing out the lost-tune finishing line of the album: “But I’m free from the chain gang now.”

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