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Some background:
When I was 10 years old, my first concert was Johnny Cash. He was doing a promotional tour for Canada Trust and their new ATM machines which were then called "Johnny Cash Machines"! It was an amazing concert. I still remember June kicking off her shoes! My dad got to meet Johnny though I did not. It is one of his most treasured memories.

Now many years later, Rick Rubin has released American VI: Ain't No Grave. It is billed as the "final Johnny Cash studio album". Listening to it is simply an awesome experience. Although the album was only released yesterday as of this writing, and it is premature to judge, this may be my favourite American recording.

Beginning with the dark, powerful "Ain't No Grave", Johnny is defiant. He does not fear death. "Ain't No Grave" has more accompaniment than most of the tracks on this album, which are adorned only by the odd piano keys, steel guitar, or rhythm. Johnny's voice is weak, yet that baritone is so defiantly powerful. Even in illness, Johnny refused to stop making music, his aching voice a shadow of what it once was. Yet even that aching voice stirs powerful emotions through the music. Only Johnny can sing these songs the way he sings them.

Highlights for this listener included:
"Redemption Day", a track written by Sheryl Crow and an upbeat number.
"I Corinthians 15:55", Johnny's sole writing credit, taken from the Bible. Truly an inspiration. Johnny's faith kept him going in those last days.
"Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream", a song about a dream of world peace. Maybe Johnny was also imagining the place he thought he'd be after death took him.
"Aloha Oe", an upbeat Hawiian song, ending the album with the haunting words, "Someday, we'll meet again".

I know Rick Rubin lovingly produced these final six Johnny Cash albums, befriending the man and earning his trust. Knowing that, I trust that Rubin finished these songs the way that Johnny would have wanted them to sound. I do love what he did with the packaging. A picture of Johnny as a boy on the front, a ghostly Johnny gazing through a window on the back, no song list on the cover. Inside is a booklet with a copy of Johnny's handwritten lyrics to "I Corinthians 15:55", a really cool touch. No liner notes. Rubin lets the music speak for itself.

The American recordings, which also included the fantastic boxed set Cash Unearthed (5CD) and 1998's live VH1 Storytellers with Willie Nelson, will go down in history as some of the most important country recordings. Personally I cannot think of another artist in any genre who was so prolific in his or her last days. The fact that these final recordings are so diverse, so strong, and so powerful are a testament to the Man in Black.

5 stars. Rest in peace Johnny.
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on April 12, 2010
The final Johnny Cash: American recording is finally here, and it is brilliant. Rick Rubin, you done good. While there is aguably - and appropriately - no career-redefining moment here, such as "Hurt," nor is there anything one could remotely call a dud. The musicianship is excellent throughout, and the choice of songs for this posthumous offering is perfect, from the stunning opener, "Ain't no grave" (kudos to Scott Avens on banjo) into Sheryl Crow's "Redemption day" on through "I don't hurt anymore" (not to mention the best rendition I've heard of "For the good times" since Kris Kristofferson showed up for a concert unexpectedly lacking then-wife Rita Coolidge). The collection of handscrawled notes (and a photo of the Shroud of Turin) in place of production notes or more extensive lyrics makes for a poignant enclosure. And the twanging "Aloha" that closes the album is lovely: "Until we meet again," Johnny.
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on May 14, 2013
I think John had faded just a little too much by the time this album was recorded, and he had already put his faves down on the first five discs in the series. Still, if you love Cash, it's worth having the set.
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on January 7, 2016
Ceux qui aime Johnny aimerons sans doute.
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on February 24, 2013
I found this CD okay, not amazing. I had a few of his songs before. I also found some of the songs very sad.
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on February 2, 2015
timeless John
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on May 4, 2015
Awesome service awesome cd perfect shape plays awesome thx 5 out a 5
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