Of the 5 American Series Cash released during his last years, this album is my 2nd favorite, very close to being IMHO as good as my favorite, A Man Comes Around IV. The main difference is that IV includes a few out of this world tracks that give it the edge over this one.
That is not to say that no stand out tracks are included on this set. No less practically half of the album reaches the status of being exceptional. Tom Petty sings along with Cash on the opening two tracks, the first being a Petty cover, I Won't Back Down. Petty's version is good but somewhat dated (Jeff Lynn produced it), Cash's version is more straight forward and much better. A similar analogy can be made of the next track, Solitary Man, a very straight forward version with a silent despair.
U2's One is another track which Cash does much much better (I am a huge U2 fan and think that their version is great). The text shines in this version and actually adds a different dimension to the song itself. After a solid and powerful start the set slows down somewhat with I See Darkness and The Mercy Seat. The latter track is a Nick Cave cover in which Cash interprets the anguish someone feels being on death row and about to be electrocuted; very powerful song and the end where the admission of guilt is followed by bar room piano playing in a macabre fashion is not to be missed.
Mary of the Wild Moor and Wayfaring Stranger are the main tracks at the latter half of this album. Although most of those tracks are not as good as the first tracks of the album, none of them have any filler feel to them.
Although I prefer IV, this album is also a must purchase for any Cash fan and those who would like to add some Cash to their collection should not let this album pass them by. Of the American Series, this may even be the most even album and probably has the most direct straight forward production, brimful of guitars and solid tracks.