"I don't listen to a whole lot of country music, but when I do I generally like it undistilled. There are a few C&W artists I like without reservations and then there are those who are enigmatic enough that you never know what to expect from them. Johnny Cash fits into both categories.
Cash's "American" series has been interesting and I was eager to hear what was on offer here after his tremendous Solitary Man album. For once, here's an album which lives up to industry hype. I'll be hard pressed to improve on amazon's adulatory paean to Cash's latest work.
I was floored by the ragged glory of Cash's interpretations of this eclectic material the first time I heard it. Very little of it has any connection to traditional country, but with Cash behind the mike, the country just seems to burst forth.
Some of the more familiar songs I heard with new ears. Songs like Hurt, In My Life and Desperado have a whole lot more meaning when sung by a man of Cash's age as he can look back on life's triumphs and disappointments and sound as if he really means what he's singing.
I like the entire CD, but my favorites are the hellfire and brimstone The Man Comes Around, the mournful Hurt, the remorseful I Hung My Head, the reflective In My Life, the swaggering Sam Hall, the plaintive classic Streets of Laredo, and an uplifting rendition of We'll Meet Again.
The video of Hurt is well worth the extra buck fifty. Watch it...again and again and again! Cash's beloved wife appears in it and her recent death gives it a poignancy money couldn't buy.
I agree with the reviewer who said that Johnny Cash is every bit as important to American music as Elvis Presley. In the autumn of his life, he proves with American IV: The Man Comes Around that he still has what it takes to take his place in the pantheon of American music greats"
OH MY GOD
MYLILY | USA | 05/22/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have heard both Trent Reznor's and Johnny Cash's versions of HURT. Trent's version speaks from a young person's point of view and is fine...but in the hands...and voice...and soul of Johnny Cash, it takes on a resonance and meaning that NIN can't even begin to touch. I have seen the video and listened to the song numerous times and I cry every time. It is particularly heart wrenching now that June has passed...Everyone I know goes away in the end...how much more than one man take?The other songs are good...and the album is superior...but I honestly listen to it for HURT. This album is the crowning touch to a phenomenal career but HURT is the diamond in the crown...his whole life in one song. People need to get over categorizations. This is brilliant MUSIC, no matter what the genre. This is a brilliant musician. He does not have the best singing voice, but his vocals have more soul in them than ANYONE else out there now. I would put him with Billie Holliday when it comes to singing from the very core of being.Singers like Johnny come our way so infrequently...we need to hold on to him as long as we can."
Zach Bibeault | Minneapolis, MN | 03/17/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I remember hearing the original version of "Hurt," as played by Nine Inch Nails a while back, but when I heard Cash's version recently on the Top 9 countdown (on the local rock station, mind you), I was BLOWN AWAY. It was always a beautiful and haunting song, but with the wavering voice of a seventy-year-old man singing it, it was amazing, and his version is dark but full of hope. "If I could start again....." This line of hope nearly made me cry, backed by his progressively louder acoustic playing in the background. Awesome cover, awesome album - HIGHLY recommended."
WOW! Literally makes your hair stand on end.
RMurray847 | Albuquerque, NM United States | 12/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Johnny Cash doesn't have the greatest voice, technically speaking. He'll go flat or off-key frequently. And are there many other artists who would allow that sort of thing to get cut to a master, burned to CD and sold? The very rawness makes each of these tracks seem live, almost as though he started singing them at the perfect moment when he FELT the songs most, and no matter that it wasn't perfectly sung...it was perfectly emoted.The results are some the most hair-raising songs ever released, in my opinion. Cash turns each song into one of utter sadness. This is a man who has felt deep loss, deep disappointment (mostly in himself) and doesn't really expect things to change.What's wild is that many of the covers he does sound like they were songs written for him. BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER is the blandest of the bunch, but even that sounds new in his voice. But PERSONAL JESUS!! Who would have thought he'd cover that song...and yet in his hands, it is transfored. No longer cold and impersonal, it is a heartfelt, non-cynical song about reaching for the forgiveness of Jesus. It's a hymn. And HURT???? Yikes...good luck getting through that one intact. My skin is prickly just remembering it. When Trent Reznor sang it, sure it was creepy, but did we REALLY believe this young guy had the life experience to sing "everything I've loved goes away in the end." Boy, you better believe Johnny Cash makes that line resonate!! You don't need to see the video (thankfully included on DVD in this version...don't just buy the DVD single...it's only a few bucks more to add the whole darn album!!) to know this is a classic take.I won't cover every song, but some of my personal favorites include IN MY LIFE (I'm a huge Beatles fan, and it's great to hear this cover...so melancholy) and I HANG MY HEAD, which I swear COULDN'T have been written by Sting. It sounds like a classic western / folk tale. Great stuff.The title track, written by Cash, is all the affirmation I need that this guy wasn't just sitting around in the studio waiting for Rich Rubin to hand him a sheet of music. He was actively involved, and could still write a mean tune. This one is based on the book of Revelations, and it's spritely, mischievous and more than a little scary. Then man had chops right until the end.The fact that this was Cash's final effort certainly makes the album more poignant, particularly also knowing that his love, June Carter, left this world before him. I'm sure there will be tributes to Cash for years to come...but none will serve as a better tribute than this haunting masterpiece. It's not for the faint of heart!"
Lament of a man at the end is a stunner
D. Layer | New Mexico | 12/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It has been said that Johnny Cash could sing the phone book and make it sound compelling. His final recording is a testament to that statement. There is simply not a miss in this entire collection and the whole album sounds as if it is a mournful good-bye.
Cash's rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" stands next to Aretha Franklin's as the definitive version (although I'm still unsure of Fiona Apple's vocal background).
The real chiller is "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face". This IS the definitive version. One can see June Carter's face and feel the longing and love between these incredible artists. There is no doubt that Cash senses the end here and what an end it is. As blistering, raw and revealing as music gets.
Throw in the video/vocal for "Hurt" and you've got a peerless compilation from a man who knows too much, has given his all, and deserves every bit of respect and admiration this and all of his other work is garnering. Thanks Johnny. May you at last find peace."