Knowing the reverence and notoriety of Johnny Cash made approaching this post a little daunting. With a career spanning fifty years across six decades and over ninety albums produced, there is an abundance to be said about his music that critics and enthusiasts alike will be talking about for time to come. Ive only heard The Ring Of Fire and Walk The Line before going into this record. American Recordings intrigued me greatly for two reasons. Firstly It was produced by Rick Rubin who had made a name himself in Metal and Hip Hop, working with the likes of iconic names LL Cool J, Run DMC, Danzig and Slayer. Secondly at this point in time Cash was a broken man, his career in tethers and with Ruben he formed a close friendship that would rekindle his musical fire and restore parts of his life and happiness.
With just a voice and his guitar, Cash can burden you with the depths of his struggle. His deep, baritone voice has the texture of times scars, a weight he holds on his shoulders felt through the catharsis of his expressions. With a deep, soft and alluring voice his hurt soothes with its release as the heavy subjects of life's regrets and struggles are caught in a memorizing bubble that is Cash's heart felt sincerity. Its far from gloomy, as Johnny works through his inner demons, one can feel the redemption as he comes to terms with events transpiring through his poetic lyrics. Its an intense experience that can suck one into the grasp of its simplicity, the acoustic guitar often feeling entirely irrelevant in the shadow of Cash's iconic voice, with exception to a few songs like Thirteen, where the strumming of dingy chords feels like the tone setter.
Going into the record I was expecting some twang and yee-haw! Known as a Country artist, I have to say this is far more personal and Folk like however one track, Tennessee Stud, greatly amuses me for its praise of a regional horse. The real story in the song is overshadowed behind the enthusiastic crowd, cheering all mentions of the horse. This album captures a man coming to terms with many things and turning much of it around, which is parallel to the critical and commercial response, which makes a lot of sense If you think about it. Ruben's minimalist approach to production seems a perfect fit for Cash's needs, however knowledge of their strong friendship makes me think the revival of this man goes far beyond the production we can hear on this fine record.
Favorite Tracks: Delia's Gone, The Beast In Me, Thirteen, Like A Soldier