American V: A Hundred Highways – Johnny Cash | CD review

(American) 4 stars

Cash recorded these dozen songs in the months up to his death in September 2003.

There’s a dignified strength about the ailing musician’s performance and choice of material (from Hank Williams to Gordon Lightfoot, Bruce Springsteen and Ian Tyson) that transcends the wasted voice.

The album was recorded solo and producer Rick Rubin later added instrumentals including Heartbreakers Mike Campbell (guitar) and Ben Tench (keyboards).

Aside from the gritty gospel-blues `God’s Gonna Cut You Down, `V’ hasn’t the bleak power of its 2002 predecessor, `IV’, but it’s hard to resist the seren strength of an artist at peace with himself – notably on the final `I’m Free From the Chain Gang Now’.

There’s an over-supply of Cash material  at the moment, from the 1987 concert DVD `Live from Austin TX’ (New West) to the hit biopic’s CD soundtrack `I Walk The Line’ (Sony&BMG) and underwhelming `A Concert behind Prison Walls’ (Rajon).

Pride of place belongs to `Personal File’ (Columbia Legacy) – a remarkable treasure trove of 49 solo, home recordings from 1973-82, unearthed by Cash’s son John Carter after his dad’s death.

- Mike Daly

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