Release Date: Jul 4, 2006
Record label: Lost Highway
Genre(s): Rock, Country
The July 4 release date is no accident. In the three years since his death Johnny Cash has become such an American icon that the only surprise is they've not carved him on to Mount Rushmore yet. Though never a slouch in the personal mythology department, a lot of the credit for the way he's viewed now goes to the four albums he made during his 10-year collaboration with rap and rock producer Rick Rubin, each featuring songs - often unexpected covers - spotlighting his image as the solitary, sentimental, stoic outlaw-preacher Man in Black.
The album begins with two religious songs, Larry Gatlin's "Help Me," a plea to God, and the traditional "God's Gonna Cut You Down," which, in a sense, answers that plea. The finality of death thus established, Cash launches into what is billed as the last song he ever wrote, "Like the 309," which is about a train taking his casket away. The same image is used later in the cover of Hank Williams' "On the Evening Train," in which a man and his child put the coffin of a wife and mother on another train.
You never heard a sadder album than American V. Nearly three years after Johnny Cash's death, the American icon's final recordings are a difficult listen. Short of breath, with a voice jagged beyond its normal craggy self, Cash faces the hereafter with a stark gravity. The majority of this project was recorded just after the death of Cash's wife, June Carter, and just months before his own.