Johnny Cash…American VI: Ain’t No Grave

As with any posthumous release, one always has to question the record labels intentions. I am happy to report, that from the opening track of American VI, to the very last, all that chatter can be put to rest.

Ain’t No Grave quickly reminds us, that even in death, J.R. Cash, is still a voice to reckoned with.  North Carolina’s own Avett Brothers join the party, with the accompanying foot stomps, chains, and banjos. Mr. Cash makes it clear, that he is indeed, moving on to a better place. “Redemption Day” is a Cash twist on a Sheryl Crow song. Another song about, well, death – and the journey to the afterlife.  “For The Good Times” a track originally recorded by Kris Kristofferson, once again, could be a travelling anthem for passing on. Are you starting the see a theme here?  “I Corinthians 15:55” – a Johnny Cash original, starts off with “Oh death, where is thy sting.” Once again a reminder that this is his final curtain call. “Can’t Help but Wonder Where I’m Bound” is a take on folk hero Tom Paxton’s original recording.  A track that ponders where one might end up, when said days are over. “A Satisfied Mind”, “I Don’t Hurt Anymore”, and “Cool Water”, are all old time country staples. However,  the strangest to me, yet the most fitting track is “Aloha Oe”, a song once made famous by the late great Elvis Presley.  Originally penned by Lili’uokalani’s in 1877. A song associated with Hawaii, and saying good-bye.

This album never really strays from the whole morbidity theme. A real downer at some points. However, it is brilliantly recorded, and beautifully arranged. Cash’s voice sounds as haunted, and melodic, as when he was in his prime. Once again, the project was helmed with super producer/guru Rick Rubin.  Session players include, Mike Campbell, Jonny Polonsky, Matt Sweeney, Smokey Hormel, and Benmont Tench.

Unfortunately, this is the last in the series of the American Recordings. If you are not a fan of the American Series, I don’t think this collection will convert you. However, if you are a fan, this particular collection is as enjoyable as the previous recordings. Some have questioned the track selection for this final collection. I think it is very fitting myself. You can sit back and wonder what if or you can enjoy this swan song by a true legend.  Thank you Mr. Cash! Your legacy, and brilliance continues to shine through, even though you are no longer here in physical form.

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