Johnny Cash’s Last Album
The implied agency of this Reuters headline is amusing: “Johnny Cash releasing another posthumous album.” Someone’s releasing the album, but I’m pretty sure it’s not Johnny.
More than six years after his death, Johnny Cash will return to record stores next month with a new album featuring one of the last songs the country legend ever wrote.
“American VI: Ain’t No Grave,” billed as the final installment in a series of comeback recordings overseen by producer Rick Rubin, will be released on February 26, the 78th anniversary of Cash’s birth, said a spokeswoman for Rubin.
As with its predecessors, “Ain’t No Grave” is heavy on acoustic covers, including tunes written by Sheryl Crow and Kris Kristofferson as well as a gospel number previously covered by Bob Dylan. Cash himself contributed, “I Corinthians: 15:55,” a song he wrote during his last three years. He died on September 12, 2003 after years of poor health, and just four months after his wife, June Carter Cash. In 2006, he topped the U.S. pop album chart with “American V: A Hundred Highways.”
The “American Recordings” series kicked off in 1994 after Rubin rescued Cash from a creative and commercial lull. Their critically acclaimed collaborations garnered six Grammys and delivered a whole new generation of fans enticed by mournful covers of tunes by the likes of Beck, Nick Cave, Neil Diamond and Depeche Mode. His biggest success was with Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” whose heartbreaking video served as a final farewell.
The track listing for “Ain’t No Grave” includes Crow’s “Redemption Day” and Kristofferson’s “For The Good Times,” as well as Joe “Red” Hayes and Jack Rhodes’ “A Satisfied Mind,” the opening track on Dylan’s unloved 1980 album “Saved.” Cash also covered Tom Paxton’s “Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound,” Bob Nolan’s “Cool Water,” and Queen Lili’uokalani’s “Aloha Oe.” He dusted off Ed McCurdy’s anti-war “Last Night I had the Strangest Dream,” which also appears on his 1969 concert recording “At Madison Square Garden.”
The resurgence of interest in Cash’s work has been truly remarkable. He was a superstar in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. He was a has-been in the 1980s. And then he had a modest rival in the early 1990s that steamrolled.
And he’s arguably more popular now than ever. He’s truly appreciated as an artist and selling records like crazy. And, of course, the 2005 theatrical film “Walk the Line” was not only a huge box office success but critically acclaimed as well.