The Inside Pulse:
Johnny Cash recorded this – his last record – in the months before his death. You can really hear it. It helps that it’s by far his darkest collection of songs, mostly covering the obvious topics of death, loss, and mourning (mostly of love, but once, for Disco). There have been almost a dozen post-humous releases of Johnny Cash music. But this is not only the only real selection of unreleased material, it’s also the only one Johnny wanted you to hear.
If this record doesn’t take you to a place of heartbreak, you’re not human. The cold guitar, the dusty violin, the rustic piano, the groveling voice, it’s all hear in amazing glory. This is the pinnacle of the ‘American’ series. It’s a strong selection of songs, and he is flawless in his death-bed renditions. Country music simply does not come better. In addition, the last song he ever wrote, “Like the 309”, sums it all up pretty nicely.
For all his great decisions in covers, he decided to do “If you could read my mind”, a disco tune featured prominently in the movie “54”. He does a killer job of it, and he turns it into something completely different, but the first few times you listen to it will throw you off.
*EDIT – After a few emails came my way about the actual origin of this song (Gordon Lightfoot, early 70s) I’ve decided to give it another listen. Although the credibility of the song goes up significantly, it’s still the weakest track on the record. Thanks for writing everyone!
Fact is, there isn’t a direct comparison anywhere. There isn’t another artist in any genre who bleeds so much into their music. There’s no formula on how to put together Johnny Cash.
Reason To Buy:
You want one guaranteed album of the year candidate already. You also want to have the last vestige of a grand career. You want to complete the best string of albums ever put together. I don’t care who it is. Nobody has ever done 5 perfect albums in a row. I say this not because he has compiled a great songbook, not because it’s gravity holds true throughout, but because he made it look easy, even moments before death.