Album Review: Johnny Cash - 'American VI: Ain't No Grave' (Lost Highway)

It's time for the Man in Black should to be left in peace

Some things should just be left alone. 'Ain’t No Grave…' arrives almost seven years after Cash’s death and four years after ‘American V: A Hundred Highways’, the first posthumous album to be distilled from the final sessions that Cash recorded with producer Rick Rubin.

Ahead of release, the record has been pitched as the great fierce outlaw’s rage at the dying of the light, his angry valediction recorded in a breathless fury between Cash’s beloved wife June Carter’s death in May 2003 and his own that September.

At first it does sound like a great lost classic. The title track, an old spiritual, is dense and brooding. As Cash fights for air and spits, “There ain’t no grave can hold my body down”, it feels like he is clawing himself out of the very ground. It’ll give you goosebumps. But that’ll be one of the only times you’ll get this feeling.

In fact, the only other essential moment comes on the cover of Sheryl Crow’s ‘Redemption Day’ (ask your aunt). Built around simply-picked guitar, pump organ and piano it feels like a Cash standard and carries echoes of his classic reading of ‘Hurt’. It’s said there were 50 tracks to pull from for the two posthumous albums. There must have been a lot of filler.

‘I Corinthians: 15:55’, the only Cash original (yes, it’s about overcoming death), lacks the piss and vinegar that he carried through his life. Too much of the rest – ‘I Don’t Hurt Anymore’, ‘Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream’ – feel, at best, like average Cash moments. At worst, they’re hokey and clumsy.

Cash deserves better than this. In fact, he deserves to be left in peace. Some things should just be
left alone.

Paul McNamee

Click here to get your copy of Johnny Cash's 'American VI: Ain't No Grave'
4 / 10

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