American V: A Hundred Highways

I don't like country music. I'm not sure why, but something about the sound just doesn't do it for me. That said, I recently picked up a copy of American V: A Hundred Highways by Johnny Cash, and, much to my surprise, it's superb. I realize that this admission will make me sound like an uncultured fool, and maybe I am, but I don't even like Cash's classics; I fail to connect with songs like Walk the Line, Folsom Prison Blues, A Boy Named Sue, or Man in Black.

American V is different, though. Created from his final sessions (most of the material was recorded in his own home), the album wasn't even released until nearly 3 years after he passed away. Though it certainly received extra attention because of its posthumous release, it's impossible to listen to the album without the knowledge that Cash was nearing the end. He sounds decidedly old and ailing, which is understandable because of his health, but surprising in that is adds an incredible vulnerability to his delivery.

The tracks are diverse, from the bluesy groove in Like the 309 to the anthemic stomp-clap of God's Gonna Cut You Down to the tearful lyrics in On the Evening Train, but Cash never fails to establish a sense of genuine emotion. The themes of religion and the finality of death are inescapable, but the mood, while somber, never sinks to despair. Intimate and authentic, his final reflections reach out from beyond the grave to fittingly conclude his illustrious career.

-Eric

You know that ghost is me


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