Drawn from Johnny Cash's final sessions with producer Rick Rubin, American V is another moving chapter in a great American artist's remarkable late-life journey. In the end, Cash's presence, even when he's clearly in a weakened state -- he died four months later -- remains commanding. The mood is reflective, the artist imparting his sense of an endgame playing out and, poignantly, faced alone (these recordings were made in the months after the death of Cash's wife, June Carter Cash). One of the most beautiful moments on any Cash record comes via a lilting version of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind," a wobbly, ragged vocal caressing the haunting lyrics just so, at times sounding so weak you wonder if Cash will get through the number. An elegantly fingerpicked acoustic guitar line is bolstered by Benmont Tench's organ, humming reverently in the style of a hymn of invitation. Many of the songs reference death explicitly (the bluesy, bopping "Like the 309," the final recorded Cash original) or obliquely (Larry Gatlin's dirge-like "Help Me"), whereas others, such as Springsteen's low-key folk blues "Further On (Up the Road)," suggest a reunion in the afterlife. Grim as this all sounds, Cash lets the light in with two touching love ballads, Rod McKuen's reflective affirmation "Love's Been Good to Me" and Hugh Moffatt's unfettered billet-doux "Rose of My Heart." The sound remains spare, with Benmont Tench's piano, organ, and harpsichord flourishes offering gentle support to a sextet of guitarists (including Heartbreaker Mike Campbell, Randy Scruggs, and Smokey Hormel) who pick evocative, minimalist phrases in such a way that Cash often sounds like he's accompanied only by a music box. Other musicians are credited with unspecified "invaluable contributions," but surely Marty Stuart's adding the mandolin lines here and there, "Uncle" Josh Grave is behind the dobro cries, and Cash's old Sun compadre, "Uncle" Jack Clement, wasn't just along for the ride. Well-traveled highways, these, and the going was good.
Performance CreditsJohnny Cash Primary Artist
Marty Stuart Musician
Mac Wiseman Musician
Pat McLaughlin Guitar
Benmont Tench Organ,Piano,Harpsichord
Dennis Crouch Musician
Larry Perkins Musician
Randy Scruggs Guitar
Pete Wade Musician
Smokey Hormel Guitar
Jonny Polonsky Guitar
Laura Cash Musician
Technical CreditsJohnny Cash Composer
Don Gibson Composer
Ian Tyson Composer
Gordon Lightfoot Composer
Bruce Springsteen Composer
Rod McKuen Composer
Larry Gatlin Composer
Hugh Moffatt Composer
Rick Rubin Producer,Liner Notes
Christine Cano Art Direction
John Carter Cash Executive Producer
Lou Herscher Composer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
American V: A Hundred Highways based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
These songs were recorded near the end of John's life. His voice is often weak and faltering but that somehow makes these performances even more profound. All of his American label albums are worth owning. This one has the great song: "God's Gonna Cut You Down" which is worth the price all by itself. If you're new to the works of Johnny Cash I recommend you start with the great Bear Family box sets, but you will eventually work your way to this album. Mr. Cash is greatly missed, but his influence on the music of the United States (and elsewhere) is incredibly strong even today,
It's surprising to me that "American V: A Hundred Highways" debuted at the top of the Billboard pop album charts, despite the fact that in some circles this disc had been eagerly anticipated since Johnny Cash's death in 2003. This is not an easy, superficial listen. The record is downbeat musically, with spare, elegiac arrangements--the fire-and-brimstone "God's Gonna Cut You Down" is about as rousing as this disc gets. The effects of age and illness on Cash's body and his voice are painfully obvious in some tracks. Then there's the CD's underlying theme, which emerges as a subtext even if it's not stated explicitly: reaching the end of the line, alone (Cash lost his beloved June shortly before he taped these songs), knowing that you're powerless to duck your mortality, and finding the grace to accept the inevitable and prepare to meet your Maker. It's somber stuff, and poignant--but thanks to the singer's dignity and generosity, it never feels either morbid or maudlin. In fact, it feels more like an example for the rest of us to follow when the time comes. I give this five stars not for technical perfection--Cash was never a polished vocalist, even at his peak--but for the depth of honesty and communication the Man in Black attained here, helped considerably by producer Rick Rubin (who showed a master's hand in choosing the dozen tracks here out of the 50 or so he and Cash recorded in the singer's last few months). Sad to say, there's very little music-making that's this real anymore.
Johnny Cash is what Bobby Dylan called the "Norhtern Lights" of American song and I think he will be respected by everybody from all genres or at least should be. Literally, this a man on the edge--near death--and he is staring it in the face with songs like "Love Has Been Good To Me" and the metaphysical "I Came to Believe." Johnny Cash is clearly in pain but contented in peace, ready to go into "that good night" of death. We should be humbled by that. R.I.P. Johnny Cash.
Voice is aging but great interpretations of these songs. Very Good interpretation of "God's Gonna Cut You Down." Good overdubbing by Rick Rubin. Rubin proves himself to be a top notch producer with this record. He should be in the Rock Hall of Fame as a producer.