Monday, March 1, 2010

American VI

Just listened through the posthumous release of Johnny Cash, American VI. I wasn’t expecting this one. It was a surprise to see it. I thought they’d just keep releasing over-priced box sets of out takes and who knows what for the next 300 years. All of which I would have happily laid down the legal tender. Word is that there are a lot of unreleased recordings.

But this recording is a very special thing. It’s like finding a letter written to you by a friend after they’ve died -- a letter that says everything is going to be okay. It really seems to capture the heart of Johnny Cash. I especially like “Ain’t No Grave,” which a guy named Russ Taff did a killer blues/rock version of years ago. I am also partial to “Satisfied Mind” and the Marty Robbins cover, “Cool Water.” These songs are right up there with “Delia’s Gone,” “Hurt,” “The Man Comes Around,” God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” “Drive On,” “The Mercy Seat,” “The Beast In Me,” “I See A Darkness,” etc. etc. etc. There are so many great, great songs from the American sessions.

This is a phenomenal recording. Pure American. With shades of darkness but hopeful at the same time, just like Johnny Cash. Like a candle in the dark that is VERY aware of the darkness because it has so fully been touched by that darkness. I don’t know if I like this recording more than American I and IV, both of which I consider masterworks, but this is great stuff.

Johnny Cash’s music isn’t for everyone, but nothing is for everyone. What’s great is how his words just drip with honesty and Rick Rubin has surrounded that honesty with simple, straight forward music. You might not agree with what he’s saying, but you know he believes it. It’s not a front. All of the American recordings have this feeling of simplicity and honesty, and it’s an admirable thing. There’s something powerful about listening to a broken man singing his broken but heartfelt songs, with the hope of hearing perfection some day.

American VI ends with Aloha Oe, which makes perfect sense. The last words on the recording being “until we meet again.” And that’s what Johnny Cash would want. He’d want you to know his Savior so he could meet you when your time on earth is finished.

By the way, if you like the American Recordings, there is a much lesser known set of recordings released by the Cash Family soon after Johnny’s passing called “Personal File.” This is a long two disc set of recordings that were found in a box in the studio that had been done as acoustic demos years ago. Genuine “lost” recordings that have a very “American” sensibility to them. It’s well worth getting.

Good listening and...

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010


  1. the sentiments in his songs remind me of Jon Foreman. he does solo work but is the lead in the more widely known Switchfoot. very good song writer.

  2. Yeah. Have you heard the Fiction Family stuff? Lot's of Beatles influence, with a sort of rock/bluegrass/jazz thing going on at the same time? It's odd but it's good.


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