It’s been over seven years since the death of Johnny Cash; four since his distinctive voice has sung from the grave via a release of recordings in his last months.

The precursor to American VI: Ain’t No Grave (American V: A Hundred Highways) was so packed with emotion and Cash’s coming to grips with death that a second posthumous follow-up could seem unnecessary. But before Cash’s death the planning for even American VII and VIII were in motion with producer Rick Rubin. So VI was necessary to complete
Johnny’s recorded works—VI actually being his last ever recordings.

The album leads off with an eerie version of the title track—chains scraping and clanking throughout as if the ghost of the Man in Black is performing the song, setting the tone throughout the album. As with the other albums in the American series, VI is heavy on the covers—only one song has the byline John R. Cash (this time “I Corinthians 15:55”) on it. What is amazing about the American series is Cash made everyone of those songs his own—Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage”, Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”, and now on VI, Sheryl Crow’s “Redemption Day” stands out.

The overall cohesiveness of the album isn’t in the similarities of the songs he’s singing, but rather the overwhelming theme of death present in them. Not a mourning of death, but rather like coming across a box of old pictures of the deceased. Pictures of an old man in a place where he is waiting for the death he has accepted, waiting for the final freedom.

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