Monday, July 03, 2006

In House #1654: Johnny Cash's American V: A Hundred Highways

So the story goes: just days after the death of his wife June Carter in May of 2003, Johnny Cash placed a call to producer Rick Rubin that bore the message, "I've got to get to work." Perhaps he knew his time was short, that he didn't have long to say everything he wanted to say, and he set to work laying down the bare bones tracks for what would become the fifth in the American recordings series. Representing work he was doing right up until his death in September of 2003, Cash's A Hundred Highways finally sees its release date tomorrow.

Dating back to the mid-90's, the idea for the American series began with producer Rick Rubin, who approached Cash with the idea of recording sparse, stripped down versions of essentially whatever he wanted to sing. Twelve years and five volumes later the collaborations, for that's what they really are, have produced versions of songs written by everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Neil Diamond to Cash himself.

This time around there's nothing as adventurous as, say, "Hurt," but selections like "Four Strong Winds," "Further On Up the Road," and "I'm Free From the Chain Gang Now," take on added depth given the weight of Cash's subsequent death. "Like the 309," one of two originals in the collection shows Cash was, indeed, a bit preoccupied with thoughts of his death, as it depicts a final train ride for him in a casket.

As usual, Rubin's production and instrumentation never step into the way of Cash's vocals, at some points here reduced to a growled whisper, instead working to present the man in black warts and all-- but still utterly compelling. Whether or not this is the final American recording (and Rubin has said there is enough new material for a sixth volume somewhere down the line), it serves as at least another legend-building chapter, powerful if hushed, in the career of a fascinating artist.

Also today, music from the always interesting musician and actor Lyle Lovett, who doesn't really care how you think he looks. Though his most recent relesae was 2003's My Baby Don't Tolerate, Lovett seems to be staying busy enough. In fact, fans in the region will have two opportunities to catch him live this month: July 21st at the Targhee Festival in Alta, Wyoming; and tonight at the Tamarack Amphitheatre in Donnelly, Idaho.

In House #1654.
Airdate: 7/03/06
Focus: New release from Johnny Cash, American V: A Hundred Highways, plus Lyle Lovett plays Donnelly, Idaho tonight, and new music from Tim O'Reagan and more.

Johnny Cash, from American V: A Hundred Highways:
"God's Gonna Cut You Down" (MP3) and "Four Strong Winds" (MP3)


In House PODCAST #131


Blogger Ween said...

Cash's voice carries so much weight and oozes history and experience.

You can tell that he is on the way out in American IV and in these songs which makes them all the more affecting

3:24 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

It definitely adds to the authenticity-- it's almost uncomfortable to listen to in places because it's too authentic, something like the "Hurt" video.

5:16 AM  

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