Black Music Matters Festival

Johnny Cash

American V: A Hundred Highways – 2006 (American/Lost Highway)

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

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The final album of material performed by the legendary Johnny Cash closes a chapter of American music that won't be duplicated. The months leading up to his death though found Cash still working on songs. And this last album, produced by Rick Rubin, certainly isn't the least in terms of quality.

The album opens with "Help Me," a haunting and moving track that Cash nails nicely. From there "God's Gonna Cut You Down" is a plodding, pleasing number that gets darker with each line as Cash almost raps portions of the lyrics. The first of two Cash-penned songs include the slow but bluesy and catchy "Like The 309" that shows Cash, despite failing health, still delivering the goods. While there are precious covers of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" and Ian Tyson's "Four Strong Winds," Cash shines on Springsteen's "Further On (Up The Road)" with a folksy, mid-tempo feeling. And most of the songs deal with some aspect with death, particularly on the morbid and sparse "On The Evening Train."

Cash perhaps sums up his career best in "A Legend In My Time," a tender, wistful tune that is one of his strongest performances here. It's an album to cherish given that there'll be no more to come.