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Johnny Cash “American VI: Ain’t No Grave” Review

Gone, but certainly not forgotten.

Three days before what would have been his 78th birthday, Lost Highway Records released the last part of the “American Recordings” sessions between Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin. It’s the final Cash album to be released.

“American VI: Ain’t No Grave” is dark, mysterious and, honestly, flat-out morbid; but hey, that’s Cash, isn’t it?

The songs chosen for “American VI: Ain’t No Grave” were taken from the same sessions that produced “American V: A Hundred Highways,” the only other album of Cash’s to be released posthumously. “A Hundred Highways” released in 2006, topped not only the country albums chart, but Billboard’s top albums chart, with No. 1 rankings. So far, “Ain’t No Grave” has peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s country albums chart, and No. 3 for top albums.

This release isn’t for the average Cash fan. As consistent with the five previous “American Recordings” albums, “Ain’t No Grave” is stripped of everything but vocals and minimal accompaniment. His voice is weak, shaky and almost unrecognizable compared to his now-infamous set of pipes. But it’s still Cash.

It’s been seven years since his passing, but his words make you feel like you’re right there with him. Cash samples songs from Jack Rhodes (“A Satisfied Mind”), Sheryl Crow (“Redemption Day”), and Don Robertson and Walter E. Rollins (“I Don’t Hurt Anymore”). Taped months before his death, each song gives insight to what Cash felt in the final days before he died. Every song tackles the idea of dying, coming to peace with one’s sins and living with regret.

In Cash’s only original recording on the album, “I Corinthians 15:55,” he sings as if he’s being lifted up to Heaven’s gate on the spot: “Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory? Oh life, you are a shining path. And hope springs eternal, just over the rise, when I see my redeemer beckoning me.”

“American VI: Ain’t No Grave” is the closest fans can get to understanding the final thoughts of the complex, “contradictory” man that was Johnny Cash.

So kick back, relax and enjoy his last words – he wanted you to hear them.

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