Album means too much cash for Johnny



Column by Austin Hill

My favorite singer of all-time came out with a new album last week, which is strange because he died in 2003.

Johnny Cash’s “new” album, “American VI: Ain’t No Grave” is a collection of songs covered by Cash and one original from his last years at American records — a great compliment to his last posthumous record, “American V: A Hundred Highways.”

The title song opens with the sound of the backbone of the banjo running over dragging chains as Johnny Belts “Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down).” This picks up where his version of “I’m Free From The Chain Gang Now” left off, the last song on “American V.”

For the Cash fans, “Redemption Day,” a Sheryl Crow cover, is this records version of “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” minus the pulsating beat.

His take of “For the Good Times,” a song made famous by Al Green, penned by Kris Kristofferson, sounds like he is dictating his last few moments — but it lacks the soul Green injected in the track.

The lone original song “I Corinthians 15:55” effectively serve as Cash’s last words. But will they remain his last words?

Cash teamed with super producer Rick Rubin in the early-nineties forging a new career and eternal friendship. Rubin approached Cash in a club one night and asked him if he could record the legendary artist for a record. Johnny said OK, and the team laid down “American Recordings.”

Recording only his voice and his guitar, Cash released the most haunting record in recent memory, showing the beautiful side of darkness — he was again the “Man in Black.”

Cash played at Memorial Coliseum along with his late wife June Carter in a concert put on by the UK Student Government. He toured all over, rejuvenated and ready to make more music.

Cash and Rubin put out “Unchained,” “American III: Solitary Man” and “American IV: When The Man Comes Around,” tapping Cash into a the younger vein of Americana.

Cash had been the ultimate rock star, a prototype for “outlaw country.”   Now he was old, a man who had it all and lost it all. He had beaten drug addiction, started a forest fire, lost his career, escaped the hands of the law a few times and almost died a few more.

Now he had found his career again, was sober, married his soulmate, and discovered Jesus. Until May 15, 2003 when June Carter died of complications during heat surgery, and he lost the only thing that mattered. On September 12, 2003 Johnny Cash found his heart again, dying from complications from diabetes.

That December, “Unearthed” was released which was said to be the final recordings of Cash posting five CD’s worth of music, along with an incredible book. It retailed at over $100, but how can you put a price on the final recordings of Johnny?

I got it, and honestly it might be the greatest collection of music I have ever heard.

Cash singing Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” with Flea and John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing backup. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers play on quite a few songs — not to mention some of the last Carl Perkins recordings. It seemed as if though they had saved the best for last.

Then “American V: A Hundred Highways” was released, and dubbed the last record from Johnny Cash. Again, I bought it and I love it. Slow in tempo, spiritual in theme, a beautiful 42 minutes of music which isn’t bad for a last record.

“American VI,” is 32 minutes long and cost the same as a full length record and since the last record was not the final record, will this indeed be the last? I said they compliment well but technically they should be the same album.

There’s a “new greatest hits collection,” what seems like every couple of weeks, with a recycled lineup of the same songs. The Cash cow is getting overcooked and I am getting impatient, and broke.

It is not that I don’t want more music, but don’t call it the last if I am getting another three albums worth of music 30 minutes at a time. In an age of downloads, don’t punish those who buy music by selling them portions of albums at full price. I don’t pay in installments, don’t make me listen in fragments.

Johnny Cash is remembered by many for a photo of him giving the finger. To the record industry that is making a fortune off my hard work and his good name, I second the motion.