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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Johnny Cash -- American V: A Hundred Highways

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When an album's virtues are as simple as A Hundred Highways, it is silly to ramble on too long. Johnny Cash recorded most of these songs when he was only months from death. Those used to the voice of the young and virile Cash (I include myself in this group) may feel a bit of a shock upon hearing it first come out the speakers here (I sure did). This near death Cash sounds so worn and weary. Against all reason, though, this near death Cash also sings with more strength and conviction than ever before. Cash sounds so thankful for the life he has lived, so free, and like a closest friend and confidant. Producer, Rick Rubin, wisely places Cash's weathered voice at the forefront, atop elegantly minimal arrangements. He hired some excellent acoustic guitar players to back up Johnny, and living legend, Benmont Tench, to fill out the album's sound on piano, keyboard, and organ. Other than that, some foot-stomping and hand-clapping on "God's Gonna Cut You Down," a little percussional thumping on Cash original, "Like the 309" (the last song he wrote on Earth), and a spare amount of fiddle to go around are all the backing necessary for one of the greatest musical storytellers of our modern age. Cash's inspiring faith, about which he sings with unwavering fervor, lights these twelve songs more brightly than any mortal instrument could.

2006 American/Lost Highway
1. Help Me 2:51
2. God's Gonna Cut You Down 2:38
3. Like the 309 4:35
4. If You Could Read My Mind 4:30
5. Further on Up the Road 3:24
6. On the Evening Train 4:17
7. I Came to Believe 3:44
8. Love's Been Good to Me 3:18
9. A Legend in My Time 2:37
10. Rose of My Heart 3:18
11. Four Strong Winds 4:34
12. I'm Free from the Chain Gang Now 3:00

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