˝American VI: Ain’t no grave˝ is the final in the Rick Rubin produced ˝American˝ series of CDs by Johnny Cash. Like its predecessors, it comprises pared-back covers, as well as (in this case), an original (and purpotedly final) composition by Cash.
˝I Corinthians 15:55˝ is the lone original with lyrics looking at his mortality and the hope of seeing his Redeemer. Mortality, love, redemption, and spirituality colour the 10 songs on this beautiful CD, and I must say, for what supposedly comprises his last recordings, he sounds a lot stronger than he did on songs like ˝If you could read my mind˝ (from ˝American V˝), or ˝Bridge over troubled water˝ (˝American IV), where he was slightly reedy.
˝Redemption day˝ (a Sheryl Crow composition) is a beautiful acoustic ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Western movie, with Cash singing about the ˝train that’s heading straight to heaven’s gate˝, while ˝For the good times˝ (a Kris Kristofferson composition) is a heartbreaking farewell to his lover as they part and he reminisces the good times they shared.
˝Can’t help but wonder where I’m bound˝ touches on his journey on earth and his curiousity over his final destination. The solemn ˝Last night I had the strangest dream˝ finds him dreaming of a world with no more war, against a richer musical backdrop than the other songs.
Highlight, in my opinion˝ is ˝Ain’t no grave˝, his fearless and defiant proclamation that no grave can hold his body down when he hears the trumpet sound, and his looking forward to meeting Jesus, his mother and father. Chiming bell sounds, Soft guitars and banjo set to shuffling shackled-footstep sounds which provide the gentle beat to this stirring song.
As with the previous discs in the series, Cash inhabits and makes each song his own. It is obvious he knew his sojourn here was done and the songs reflect his strong belief of a life well lived and being reunited with loved ones on the other side of eternity. A masterpiece!