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American Recordings
     

American Recordings

4.8 6
by Johnny Cash
 

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When the legend outstrips reality, print the legend. That bit of sage advice informs American Recordings, the album that, even at this late date, relaunched the career of Johnny Cash by positing the legendary country singer as a man trapped between sin and salvation with only his acoustic guitar to turn to for solace. Actually, in Cash's case, the legend isn't

Overview

When the legend outstrips reality, print the legend. That bit of sage advice informs American Recordings, the album that, even at this late date, relaunched the career of Johnny Cash by positing the legendary country singer as a man trapped between sin and salvation with only his acoustic guitar to turn to for solace. Actually, in Cash's case, the legend isn't really that far removed from reality -- the singer has never made a secret of the demons plaguing him throughout his life, nor of his attempts to combat them with strong doses of old-time religion and multicolored pills. Yet seldom has his portrait been drawn with such sharp relief as in "The Beast in Me," a cautionary tale written for Cash by his former son-in-law, Nick Lowe. There's also "Delia's Gone," a country-blues song as gritty and morbid as anything found in gangsta rap, and "Thirteen," a grim narrative written by hard-rock hellion Glenn Danzig. But signs of hope can by found in Kris Kristofferson's humble "Why Me, Lord," Tom Waits's "Down There by the Train," and Cash's own "Redemption." This album is a landmark work in a career that has more than a few magnificent touchstones, all of them hard-won.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Mark Deming
Johnny Cash was in the unenviable position of being a living legend who was beloved by fans of classic country music without being able to interest anyone in his most recent work when he was signed to Rick Rubin's American Recordings label in 1994. Rubin, best known for his work with edgy rockers and hip-hop acts, opted to produce Cash's first album for American, and as he tried to brainstorm an approach that would introduce Cash to a new audience, he struck upon a brilliant idea -- doing nothing. For American Recordings, Rubin simply set up some recording equipment in Cash's Tennessee cabin and recorded him singing a set of songs accompanied only by his acoustic guitar. The result is an album that captured the glorious details of Johnny Cash's voice and allowed him to demonstrate just how emotionally powerful an instrument he possessed. While Rubin clearly brought some material to Cash for these sessions -- it's hard to imagine he would have recorded tunes by Glenn Danzig or Tom Waits without a bit of prodding -- Cash manages to put his stamp on every tune on this set, and he also brought some excellent new songs to the table, including the Vietnam veteran's memoir "Drive On," the powerful testimony of faith "Redemption," and a sly but moving recollection of his wild younger days, "Like a Soldier." American Recordings became a critical sensation and a commercial success, though it was overrated in some quarters simply because it reminded audiences that one of America's greatest musical talents was still capable of making compelling music, something he had never stopped doing even if no one bothered to listen. Still, American Recordings did something very important -- it gave Cash a chance to show how much he could do with a set of great songs and no creative interference, and it afforded him the respect he'd been denied for so long, and the result is a powerful and intimate album that brought the Man in Black back to the spotlight, where he belonged.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/05/2002
Label:
Lost Highway
UPC:
0731458679028
catalogNumber:
586790
Rank:
20262

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American Recordings 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an album of a long time career, where he is at his best. Mr. Rubin has a knack of using barebone instrumental backing to create a unique recording. It is all here for lifelong Cash listeners and fans. God, Love, and Murder is all here. Awsome CD.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Every passenger in my car has heard this album on my cassette player; although, because I try to be a good host I do not 'inflict' music on anyone riding in my automobile. As a fan of Johnny Cash, however, I must protest that B&N's review does not give any indication of just how funny Mr. Cash is on this album: ''Delia'' or Louden Wainright III's little ditty about about tears. And, in my little corner of the world, there has been unanimous agreement, even among friends who consent to hear just one song, that Leonard Cohen could not have imagined that anyone could sing, ''Bird on a Wire,'' better. This is a subtle album, because Mr. Cash is an ARTIST in more ways than one.
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