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Johnny Cash's final "American" CD coming in February

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 – "American VI: Ain't No Grave," the sixth and final installment of Johnny Cash's critically-acclaimed American Recordings album series, will be out Feb. 26 on American Recordings/Lost Highway, the day that would have been The Man In Black's 78th birthday. Once again, Rick Rubin produced.

Songs include Sheryl Crow's Redemption Day, close Cash friend Kris Kristofferson's For The Good Times, Can Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound by Tom Paxton, Bob Nolan's Cool Water, the hopeful Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream by Ed McCurdy, J.H. Red Hayes and Jack Rhodes' Satisfied Mind, Queen Lili'uokalani's song of farewell Aloha Oe, and Cash original, I Corinthians: 15:55, written over the last three years of his life.

"American VI" was recorded by Cash's long-time engineer David "Fergie" Ferguson, and, as with its American V predecessor, tracked at the Cash Cabin Studio in Henderson, Tenn. and at Akadamie Mathematique of Philosophical Sound Research in Los Angeles.

Guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, who played on all of the series' albums sans the first one, were joined in the studio by guitarists Matt Sweeney and Jonny Polonsky plus Smokey Hormel, who also played on "American IV" and "V." The Avett Brothers' Scott and Seth made cameo appearances on the track Ain't No Grave.

Cash and Rubin recorded many songs between the completion of "American IV: The Man Comes Around" in 2002 right up until Sept. 12, 2003, the day Cash passed. Songs recorded during this time frame were released in 2006 as "American V: A Hundred Highways." "American VI: Ain't No Grave" ends the series that began in 1994 with American Recordings.

During May 2003 sessions, less than four months before his death, Cash lost his wife June Carter Cash due to surgical complications. According to Rubin, "Johnny said that recording was his main reason for being alive. I think it was the only thing that kept him going."

Cash feared that "American IV" might be his last release, so Rubin suggested that he immediately begin writing and recording new material. Due to the artist's frail condition, Rubin arranged for an engineer and guitar players to always be on call. "Every morning, when he'd wake up, he would call the engineer and tell him if he was physically up to working that day," Rubin said.

During those months, Rubin went to Nashville several times to record with Cash and associate producer John Carter Cash, Johnny's son. After a particularly productive four days of sessions, the artist said to the producer, "Oh this is great; please stay longer." So Rubin canceled his return flight to L.A., only to get a call the next morning that Cash was back in the hospital. "So there was a lot of stopping and starting, based on his health," said Rubin. "But he always wanted to work. The doctors in the hospital kind of lectured me, saying, 'He's not going to stop, so you have to make sure he doesn't work too much."

Though Cash knew his days were short, "There was no fear," Rubin said "I remember speaking to him maybe an hour after June died. He had been with her in the hospital, and I'd never heard him so distraught. And he said, 'You know, I've been through tremendous pain in my life, and I've never felt anything like this.' It was so bad that I didn't know what to say. He sounded so weak, so beaten, and I'd never really heard him like that before. I'm not sure where the question came from, but I said, 'Do you feel like somewhere you can find faith?' And when he heard that word, a switch went off in his head, and he answered in a strong voice, 'My faith is unshakable.' And the conversation changed after that. So he had tremendous faith, he didn't really have fear and he already was dealing with pain; I think he had acceptance. When he knew he was going to die, he was calm and matter of fact about it, and...that was it."

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