February 20, 2010 1:04 am

Johnny Cash: American VI: Ain’t No Grave

Johnny Cash
American VI: Ain’t No Grave
Lost Highway

3 star rating

A ghostly voice croaks out. It’s Johnny Cash, huskily singing, “I can’t help but wonder where I’m bound.” American VI: Ain’t No Grave provides an answer: the posthumous album, lucrative afterlife of many a celebrated musician.

This is the second instalment of his American Recordings series to appear since his 2003 death, and like its predecessor is culled from Cash’s final recording sessions with producer Rick Rubin.

Apparently there won’t be an American VII, which is just as well as these songs, with their frail, thickened vocals about death and Rubin’s solemn acoustic arrangements, are routine exercises in late-style Cash. There are, however, three reasons for fans to seek it out: the terrific title track, in which the man in black announces the Day of Judgment over a slow stomping beat, dusty slide guitar and tolling bells; the hymnal “First Corinthians”, the album’s only original Cash composition; and “Aloha Oe”, in which the great man heads west with the setting sun over lilting Hawaiian guitars.

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