Johnny Cash - American Vi: Ain't No Grave
One of my greatest fears with the legacy of Johnny Cash is that he'll receive the Tupac treatment. We've already seen box sets, gospels recordings, an atrocious remix album, and American V come out since his passing. Now another set of recordings the Man In Black had been making with Rick Rubin has been issued as American VI: Ain't No Grave.
You can definitely tell it's a physically weaker Cash that is singing these songs. Despite that, the strong spirit he puts into his music is undoubtedly still there. That shines through on the title track, which features the Avett Brothers, and a cover of Sheryl Crow's "Redemption Day". Most striking though is his rendition of Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times". That track makes you feel you are overhearing your grandfather singing sweetly to your grandma.
Several of the tracks do fall flat or feel half completed. "I Corinthians 15:55", the only Cash original on the album, is lyrically strong, but the arrangement fails to help deliver an impact. His take on "Satisfied Mind" sounds resigned, while fans of "Cool Water" would be far better off with The Replacements' version that appeared on their most recent reissues.
In the midst of all the songs about death and redemption, we do catch glimpses of a playful Cash. "I Don't Hurt Anymore" features a subtly playful sway while his version of Queen Lili'uokalani's "Aloha Oe" ensures the album concludes with the impression of a man at peace in his world.
Ain't No Grave doesn't do anything to tarnish Cash's legacy, but it doesn't really enhance it either. You can't help but wonder what Cash would have done with these tracks should he have lived long enough to see this album through to the end.
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on 2010-05-03 SolitaryMan Said:
Both of his posthumous albums have the feel of being incomplete somehow. I do think he would have added more to them if he were around to do so, but releasing them as they are is pleasing to a fan like me. I lost touch with his music and the American recordings are simply fantastic. This particular album is not as enjoyable to me as the first 4, but right along the same lines as the last as being solid and vital enough for someone whose time on this earth has ceased.