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on 13 July 2006
These songs were recorded while Johnny Cash was wheelchair-bound, nearly blind, asthmatic, diabetic, in constant pain and grieving the death of his soulmate and love of his life June Carter Cash, whom he would join mere weeks after the last of these tracks was recorded. Despite all that, he managed, through sheer force of will, to create an album of honesty and beauty that will stay with you long after the last note fades.

The album opens with a straightfoward appeal for help. "Oh Lord, help me to walk another mile, just one more mile" he sings on "Help Me", a hauntingly beautiful song that is neither maudlin nor overly sentimental. This is followed by what the sequencing seems to suggest is God's answer to that humble plea, the slashing, foot-stomping "God's Gonna Cut You Down". Cash seems to relish the role of the avenging hand and sings this one with gusto.

"Like the 309", the last song Cash wrote and recorded, has him returning to the "train song" motif that has been a lifeblood of his music. Cash stares down "Dr. Death" with a wink, a sly grin and a clear-eyed view of his own mortality. "Tell me all about it, what I did wrong/Meanwhile, I will be doin' fine/Then load my box on the 309".

Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind", a staple of light-pop radio, is transformed by Cash from a pleasantly hummable song about a romantic breakup into a harrowing trip into a dark night of the soul. Cash's voice is at its weakest here as he struggles for breath and pitch but that only serves to make the effect greater. Lyrics that seemed throwaway in the original seem weighted with years of regret and pain when sung by Cash. His voice breaks and nearly disappears while singing "The feeling's gone/And I just can't get it back" and "If you read between the lines/You'll know that I'm just trying to understand".

Cash takes Bruce Springsteen's "Further On Up the Road" from "The Rising" and turns it into the song it was always meant to be. What was a hard-driving rock song when done by Springsteen becomes, in Cash's hands, an instantly classic folk song that sounds like it was handed down through the years. The melody is allowed to breathe, the lyrics are clear and beautiful and the song becomes a meditation on life, faith and redemption. "If there's a light up ahead/well, brother, I don't know/But I'll meet you further on up the road".

The specter of June Carter Cash hovers over many songs on the album, notably "On the Evening Train" (the Hank Williams song about a widower sending off his wife's casket at the depot), "Love's Been Good to Me" and "Rose of My Heart" ("We're the best partners this world's ever seen... You are the rose of my heart/You are the love of my life" ). "Four Strong Winds", with its lyrics "Now our good times are all gone/And I'm bound for moving on" takes on a different meaning altogether from its original "good love gone bad" connotation.

The album closes with "I'm Free From the Chain Gang Now", a song Cash originally recorded in 1962. Back then, in the hands of a young man, the song was simply about a prisoner released from his shackles. Now, as recorded by an old man with his soulmate gone, his health gone and his best days behind him, the song is about freedom from earthly bonds. I don't think it's a coincidence that Cash's voice sounds strongest on this track. When he sings "I got rid of the shackles that bound me" he sounds like a man who has made peace with his past and is looking forward to moving on to the next station. On September 12, 2003 Johnny Cash was freed from his earthly shackles but, to our great benefit, he had the strength and talent to leave behind some sublime beauty for the rest of us. I love you, John. I'll meet you further on up the road.
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VINE VOICEon 30 September 2006
Many people can say what they want, but I almost had tears when I heard this album... just listening to `Help Me' and the way Johnny sings those lyrics, man! that's just too much. The songs in this album are perfect, and personally this is my favourite of the American saga... Johnny knew what was coming and you can feel it across the songs, there's nothing like how he approach the melodies.

I'm just glad we can always remember him with so many great records... the last one can have that nostalgic ingredient, but honestly I've never heard an album that reflected feelings in such a truthful way.

It's almost me being stupid, but after hearing this record, you feel that you know the guy... I guess very few artists could do something like that.

Enjoy this masterpiece...
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on 14 August 2006
Though American V's quality shines through on first hearing, no trouble, it is only after repeated listening that it's stark beauty becomes fully apparent.
Only a strong man would be able to sing about failure, heartache and suffering the way Johnny does. Only Johnny Cash was able to take an "ordinary" songs such as Legend in my Time and make it say more than the original writer can ever have intended.
I would hope That Rick Rubin will be able to extract more gems from what is left in the vaults at the House of Cash. I would hope that Benmont Tench, Smokey Hornel and such musicians will once again be involved. In short I hope Johnny's last farewell, if there is to be one, will be handled in the same tasteful way as "Cash Unearthed".
One bit of very minor criticism : Rubin's liner notes were, I thought a bit on the self indulgent side. I would have preferred a few photographs of Johnny with his June.
What a mountain of a man Johnny was !!
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on 24 July 2006
There is something in the voice of Johnny Cash which claims this album as one of my favourites. He worked so hard, with so much discomfort to produce the vocal tracks. It seems like he just 'had' to finish his work, and he knew time was running out. In many of the tracks, particularly the stunning 'if you could read my mind' he almost pleads for absolution.

Overall, I can't recommend this album highly enough, even for non Cash fans. It's stunning.
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on 14 July 2006
The last recording, and in places it really feels like it. The voice cannot always carry the same weight and you can almost hear him wheeze in places but this melancholic set is actually a perfect bookend to his career. A posthumous realease that is not a scrappy collection of outtakes but a vital addition to his catalogue for fans, and a great place to start for newcomers to the artist.

More personal and intimate than the first 4 American recordings this is also the most acoustic. The songs are concerned with reflection and impending conclusions, but not with regret. There are flashes of gentle humour and elsewhere evidence of his deep faith (in the aching, pleading 'Help me' for example)

If the album has a criticism it may be the lack of a standout track to equal 'Hurt' from American IV, but it gains over that collection in terms of consistency. It is a magnificent and emotional final tribute, the sound of a man singing himself into the long dark night ahead, and choosing to share it with his friends.
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on 8 February 2007
Being the last album in his 'American Recordings' series, the overall vibe of the other albums led fans and admirers of Cash to expect nothing more than what was needed; Cash's voice, a few guitars, a piano and the occassional backing vocals. Rick Rubin's tried-and-tested production method when it comes to Johnny Cash is put into motion again here, and the end result is another memorable record.

Being a mix of tradtional country songs and Cash's own material, including 'Like The 309', the last song he ever wrote before his death. It would take many pages to explain all the merits of each song, so I'll just pick out a few of my favourites. 'Like The 309' is a classic Cash track, but it has more resonance becuase it was the last he wrote. It continues Cash's love affair with trains and the story of the rails, somthing that features constanly throughout all his albums. 'Further On Up The Road' is done with a brilliance that I haven't seen elsewhere in the country music spectrum. It's instrumentation is also well chosen - the select organ chords halfway through the song sends shivers up your spine. It's a masterwork, with some meaningful lyrics that will stir up some emotion in anyone. 'If You Could Read My Mind' is a softer, moe thoughtful song may go unnoticed when compared to tracks such as 'Hurt' and 'Ring Of Fire', but in my opinion, it deserves to stand with them. It's quiet and smooth, bordering romantic, with the pure honesty of Cash's voice really coming through.

It's certainly a brilliant album to complete the series, and bolsters the allready great legend of the Man In Black. Buy this album if you're a fan of Cash or country music in general - you will not regret it.
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VINE VOICEon 6 August 2006
There are no real ethical questions here, only aesthetic ones. Rick Rubin formed one of the greatest musical partnerships of all time with Johnny Cash. He was absolutely right to finish the job that he and Johnny statrted together. Unlike many postumous albums, this stands in its own right as a great work of art, easily able to stand alongside those released whilst Cash was alive.

I thought that "We'll meet again" at the end of American IV was the last we'd hear of Johnny. I'm glad it wasn't and we all (including Johnny) owe a big thanks to Rick for that. This is a collection of beautiful and moving songs which should be appreciated by fanatics and novices alike
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on 17 June 2006
"It should be a while before I meet Dr Death," sings Cash in Like The 309, the last song he ever completed.

Recorded in the months before he died in 2003, the Man In Black had feared American IV would be his last offering so worked hard to finish as much ofthe tracks for V as he could, featuring the self-penned trail tale Like The 309, along with cuts from Springsteen (Further On), Hank Williams (On The Evening Train) and Don Gibson (A Legend In My Time).

Cash's cracking deep voice remains as rich and vibrant as ever, with his quivering and spacious interpretation of Gordon Lightfoot's If You Could Read My Mind packing an emotional punch just as heavy as his version of Hurt.
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on 10 July 2006
American V is a breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreaking album, a truly fitting finale to his recording career.

Cash's voice is strong on some songs and undertsandably shakey on others. It is the frailty in his voice that makes these songs so moving. You believe Cash has lived every word that he sings and when he sings you hear his life in the words. This album is best listened to with someone you love. As Cash sings Loves Been Good To Me and Rose of My Heart you'll be holding each other as close as you ever have. And when he sings the final lines of I'm Free From The Chain Gang Now you'll both have tears in your eyes.

What more needs to be said ?
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on 4 July 2006
Well it certainly looks like a Johnny Cash cd.The same iconic black and white shot of the "gnarly headed" legend, his name emblazened bodly across the top, as much as a statement of intent as a title.It's only when we peer inside and find the notes not written by the man himself, but the wonderful Rick Rubin that we are sadly reminded that Johnny is no longer with us, at least in the flesh, for "A Hundred Highways" certainly gives us the spirit of the great man.It has all the elements of yet another classic American Recording.Cash sings songs of God, whether it be admitting his own weakness in the opener "Help Me", or the strength he found in "I Came To Believe", or telling the "ramblers, gamblers and backbiters" in the stomping "God's Gonna Cut You Down" that justice will visit.Cash sings songs about trains, in Hank William's mournful "On the Evening Train" or on his own "Like the 309" where he compares his struggle for breath with a wheezing train,"Asthma coming down like the 309" and show us that he still had the address of the "Home Of The Blues" tucked away in his back pocket right to the end.Cash even sings a prison song in "I'm Free From The Chain Gang Now", but it's placing at the end of (maybe) his last album suggests the chain gang is merely this mortal coil.And it is this subtext, the history behind these last recordings, Cash's own mortality and the death of his beloved wife that permeate this whole album.From the coffin being loaded onto the Evening Train whilst the child is crying, through the message of "I'll meet you further on up the road", to the obvious "Rose Of My Heart", and the sadness of "our good times are all gone" in "Four Strong Winds" these songs are dedicated to the passing of June.It's not an easy journey, as Johnny sings on the gorgeous reading of "If You Could Read My Mind" about the ending being too hard to take, but this is a truly beautiful and moving album where every song fills you full of joy or brings you to tears, or often both.I just hope there'a few more gems hiding in the vaults yet.All in good time.
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