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JOHNNY CASH : American V - A Hundred Highways   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Saturday, 08 July 2006
The cliché is that it is not how we live, but how we die, that defines us.

 

And with this, the Man In Black bows out. Recorded in the short space of four months between the death of his wife and his own final exit, “A Hundred Highways” is his last testament. As another, deceased Great American said : “Nothing here but the recordings”.

 

Lacking perhaps any definitive moment of momentous import, “A Hundred Highways” is instead a definitive high peak. No single song leaps out as the definitive, emotional shotgun like "Hurt". But every song, ingrained with years of life, decades of this world, are clear. Cash doesn't mean this : he's lived this. And staring down the barrel of his own mortality, these raw emotional pleas to his Lord to come and save him are perhaps the most human songs ever recorded.

 

Much broo-ha-ha has been made over "Like the 309", the last song he ever wrote. But to me, "I Came To Believe", the other Cash original is even stronger. This is the sound of a man who knows, who hopes for the greater in what comes after.

 

The choice of songs - all wrapped up in the shroud of mortality, of a near Hitch-hikers style Total Perspective Vortex - hang heavy over this. The word "Funeral" wouldn't overdo it. Each song is a concise stately elegy to passing and mortality. The corpses of lovers pass on evening trains, the jealous eyes of those left behind. We meet further up the road, meet again, and somehow, life doesn't end, it just starts again in a different

 

Overall, "A Hundred Highways" is a devastating emotional tour through the thoughts of a man at the end of his journey. Absolutely essential listening. But not for discos or parties.

 

 

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