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Old 07-04-2006, 07:54 AM   #1
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Johnny Cash American V: A Hundred Highways

It's out today, I can't wait to get it

You can listen here

There's another CD out today of previously unreleased songs, Personal File

Review of American V

By James Reed, Boston Globe Staff | July 4, 2006

There's a poster of Johnny Cash just above the stereo in my bedroom. It's a photo of Cash in 1966, the one where he's in a suit backstage at London's then Hammersmith Odeon, with a cigarette dangling from his lips and dark circles and deep bags cradling his sunken eyes. The picture was taken at the height of Cash's drug and alcohol problems, and his skeletal left hand, with veins popping, is shocking since Cash was only in his 30s.

Every time I listen to Cash's latest album, ``American V: A Hundred Highways ," out today on Lost Highway/American, I can't get that image out of my head. It's as if the man from 1966, still downcast and ravaged by addiction, had made this album 40 years later. Only this time, Cash is fully aware of (and even embracing) his imminent death, dejected by his deteriorating health and the loss of his lifelong love, June Carter Cash, who died just four months before he did in 2003.

It's fitting that this is one of the final album s in his celebrated ``American Recordings" series with producer Rick Rubin. After four previous albums recorded over a decade, there's really nowhere else to go after these songs. Taken together, they're as poignant a farewell and tribute as you could imagine to a man (in black, of course) with such a storied past and imposing legacy.

Much of ``American V" is devastating, particularly given the context of Cash's personal life at the time of recording, in the last two years of his life. As callous as it sounds, these spare, acoustic songs probably wouldn't be so moving if Cash were still alive; they would be eerily foreboding. You can hear death in the songs like an invisible instrument.

The album's title alludes to travel, and the song order pointedly bookends his spiritual journey, beginning with his opening utterance of ``Oh, Lord/ Help me to walk/ Another mile, just one more mile/ I'm tired of walking all alone" (on Larry Gatlin's ``Help Me"). Eleven songs later, Cash sings the liberating ``I'm Free From the Chain Gang Now" as a perfect coda for the album, but also for his life.

But he's not above lightening the mood occasionally. On the guitar-blues train song ``Like the 309," one of the last songs Cash wrote, he pokes fun at his waning health: ``It should be a while/ Before I see Dr. Death/ So it would sure be nice/ If I could get my breath."

To the very end, Cash was a God-fearing man, both in life and especially on record. Over the lilt of an acoustic guitar, he imbues ``I Came to Believe" (``in a power much higher than I") with a soaring testimonial spirit, blurring the line between secular and sacred.

Though there's nothing quite as galvanizing as Cash's rendition of Trent Reznor's ``Hurt" on ``American IV: The Man Comes Around," Cash continues to mine gold from seemingly unlikely material. Gordon Lightfoot's ``If You Could Read My Mind" becomes a reflective ode to Cash's mortality. On Bruce Springsteen's ``Further on (Up the Road)," he raises the hair on your neck with lines such as ``got on my dead man's suit and my smilin' skull ring."

Compared with the new ``Personal File," a two-disc collection of previously unreleased songs, ``American V" suggests a glimmer of how mighty Cash once was. The accompaniment is always tasteful, with nothing getting in the way of Cash delivering every line with utmost, if wobbly, conviction. His voice -- once a bottomless baritone that commanded your attention simply by intoning, ``Hello, I'm Johnny Cash" -- had been diminished for a while. In its place came a feeble plea that seemed to beg more for redemption rather than to assert the fiery defiance of Cash's early work.

It's a small miracle this album is neither maudlin nor morbid. If anything, Cash sounds like he has found peace, having accepted his fate and asking the listener to do the same. For that, ``American V" is a gem : a respectful swan song that holds its creator in loving remembrance.

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Old 07-04-2006, 10:35 AM   #2
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I listened to it a bit and really am digging it.

I'll try and get it this week.

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Old 07-04-2006, 12:33 PM   #3
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I didn't realize it came out so soon. I thought it was August or September for some reason. Shows what I know.

I'll probably be picking it up sometime today or tomorry then.
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Old 07-04-2006, 03:31 PM   #4
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I listened to it 2 times now and really like it so far.. and his cover of Further Up On the Road is sweet, a lot better than Springsteen's original composition. God's Gonna Cut You Down is one of my faves currently.
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Old 07-04-2006, 09:20 PM   #5
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Can't wait to hear this...
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Old 07-05-2006, 08:24 AM   #6
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Hopefully I can pick it up today. His son encouraged him to do Further On Up The Road..

NEW YORK (AP) -- Diabetes had cost Johnny Cash much of his sight, and he needed a wheelchair. Losing his wife June was crushing. Yet, in retrospect, producer Rick Rubin wasn't surprised to hear Cash's plea the day after June died in May 2003.

He needed to work. He had to work to keep himself going.

Fulfilling Cash's request, Rubin set up a studio in a bedroom of Cash's home in Tennessee, and sent an engineer who was on call for recording for most of the rest of Cash's life. The music legend died four months after his wife.

"Sessions were booked every day and if he woke up and felt good enough to do it, he would call up and say, 'Let's do it,"' Rubin recalled. "If he wasn't doing well enough, he'd say let's do it tomorrow."

Results of some of those sessions are evident with Tuesday's release of "American V: A Hundred Highways," the fifth and penultimate in a series of discs made with Rubin that memorably capped Cash's career. It's the most moving musical rumination on mortality since Warren Zevon's last album before lung cancer killed him. (Read the EW review.)

Cash's once mountainous voice trembles and breaks in a set of songs both somber and spiritual. "Oh, Lord, help me to walk another mile, just one more mile," Cash sings on the disc's opening line. "I'm tired of walking all alone."

Among the dozen cuts is "Like the 309," the last song Cash ever wrote. It's about a train, appropriate for the man who once sang about a prisoner hearing a train whistle pass.

During those last few months Rubin regularly sent Cash assignments of songs to work on. Cash would suggest his own, and his son encouraged him to record Bruce Springsteen's "Further On (Up the Road)."

The producer sensed how important it was to keep Cash's artistic spirit alive.

"When he stopped touring, that was a terrible blow to him," Rubin said. "He loved being an artist. He felt that was why God put him on the planet. When he stopped touring, one of his main means of communication had been stopped. From that point on, he really wanted to record all the time. If he had said 'let's stop,' we would have stopped."

The timing of his death surprised Rubin because Cash had been feeling better and was planning to travel to Los Angeles to work on the music.

"After June died, he was prepared to die," said Rubin, who spoke with Cash every day in those final months. "I don't think he wanted to die, but I think he was completely at an accepting stage, of whenever it was time, it would be fine with him."

Being at the end of a memorable life is clearly reflected in the song selection. Rod McKuen's sweet "Love's Been Good To Me" is a nostalgic look back by a man who feels lucky in love. Cash re-records one of his old compositions, "I Came to Believe," about how spiritual strength helped him overcome addictions.

On his own "Like the 309," he sings: "Everybody take a look, see I'm doin' fine. Then load my box on the 309."

The one selection that seems ill-conceived is Hank Williams' "A Legend in My Time," with a jarringly self-pitying tone.

One idea that provoked wildly mixed feelings among Rubin's friends who heard the album is how the first three songs -- all essentially spirituals -- are followed by a cover of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind." Some found the transition odd and too abrupt.

Yet the Lightfoot cover is the disc's emotional center. Cash's voice is at its weakest, but his struggles to reach the notes and enunciate the words accents the aching tenderness of the lyrics.

Cash always believed he could count on his voice, and it bothered him when it was less reliable at the end, Rubin said.

"His ability to tell a story was so strong, that even when his voice was faltering, it sounded like that was part of the storytelling," he said. "I would always tell him that. I think it would make him feel better, but I did know that he wished he had better use of his instrument in the same way he always had before."

For most of his discs with Rubin, Cash would record vocals close to home and Rubin would direct construction of musical backing tracks in Los Angeles with veteran session musicians -- people like Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Then Cash would head West to oversee the final touches and re-do some vocals if he had to. The only thing different with "American V" was, of course, the elimination of that last step.

After Cash died, the tapes sat in storage. Rubin's a busy guy -- his long list of production credits includes current best sellers by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Dixie Chicks -- but that wasn't the reason. He couldn't deal with it emotionally.

Once he decided to attack the project, "it was initially traumatic and sad," he said. "But by the end of the first week it felt uplifting and positive. We felt like Johnny's presence was overseeing what was going on."

Probably because of Cash's condition and the song selections, it's a slow-tempo affair. The exception is "God's Gonna Cut You Down," with an inventive arrangement that features hand-claps and the stomping of feet.

Cash left behind enough material, about 60 songs, that there will be one more installment in the "American Recordings" series.

"Six isn't done yet," Rubin said. "But it's real good."
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Old 07-05-2006, 09:58 AM   #7
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great article
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Old 07-05-2006, 04:05 PM   #8
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It's so sad, the whole CD

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Old 08-04-2006, 12:55 PM   #9
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Johnny this CD is amazing...listening to it with headphones on in a quiet pitch black room makes your life change//
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Old 08-04-2006, 10:32 PM   #10
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weeks later, I still can't get enough of Further Up On The Road!!
Cash always knew how to make someone else's song his. He certainly did a brilliant job on the album but this song for me truly sticks out because I'm quite familiar with the original one...and let's just say Cash's version completely towers over above it.

Overall the album is haunting in such a beautiful way.

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