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JOHNNY CASH : American VI : Ain't No Grave   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Mortality is baited

With not quite as many posthumous releases as Tupac, someone has been sitting on this record for about 7 years now, without much of an apparent reason why. After the underwhelming "American Highway" set a few years back, comes what is purported to be the final Cash studio record.

Whereas the other records in the this series have been the sound of Cash exploring and ruminating on the final view of his life, this, opening with the death-taunting title track, is one of two things : either an inevitable and defiant middle finger to mortality, or a stab at some kind of retrospective narrative at a reality that just is. Some of the material, such as the revision of "Redemption Day" are as powerful as anything Cash recorded. Others seem to be slight, somewhat crammed attempts to fill the body of work in a race against time - anyone who has heard the final Queen record made of songs clearly recorded in a war versus the stopwatch of mortality has seen this before.

Not to say that this isn't a fine record - it is a solid and reliable collection - albeit one that lacks a sucker punch of a stone dead classic. Clearly it is the sound of a man at the end, pulling every line out with the exhausted breath at the end of the battle known as life. And it is punctual : only 32 minutes in length, thus, a slight moment in terms of weight, even if the impact of this is enormous in terms of the gravitas it carries.

But is this the end? There will be no more Johnny Cash recordings made, but what lies in that huge vault of history? Soon, there will be nothing left but the recordings - and Cash himself a memory. And there ain't no grave that can hold that body of work down.


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