Johnny Cash - American IV: The Man Comes Around [Universal/American - 2002]Legend and pillar of the country genre, Johnny Cash has cemented a legendary reputation and aura of a diety, in a sense, for himself over the course of more than 50 years. He IS the original man in black, and he could make a grown man cry -- moving mountains and decimating all that's in his path with his stripped-down and raw vocal delivery. Johnny Cash along with Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson (commonly referred to as the outlaws of country) pretty much re-wrote the rule book for what sincere and brutally honest country music was and is to this day is. Veering away from, and maintaining a vehemently defiant stance against watered down pop-country, Cash released his latest offering on Rick Rubin's American Recordings entitled, American IV: The Man Comes Around.
Cash's latest offering is part of a series of recordings that has been released on American, and primarily has him collaborating with musicians who look up to and highly respect him. Guest collaborations include the likes of Nick Cave (The Birthday Party, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds,) Fiona Apple and more. The album is distinctly Cash's baby though, despite his choice to cover a wide range of styles derived mostly from contemporary rock bands. Some of the covers that are contained within American IV: The Man Comes Around are Hurt (Nine Inch Nails,) Personal Jesus (Depeche Mode,) and Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel.) Johnny Cash has always had the stunning ability to transform a song and mold it into his own personal creation, and he does just that this time around. In my humble opinion, all the covers on this album are much more gripping and captivating than the originals, and they nearly make the originals pale in comparison. A feat that only seasoned and legendary artist such as Cash could accomplish.
Rick Rubin, being the owner of the label that the album was released on, naturally assisted in the production department; and as a result the album exhibits his trademark sparse and minimalistic production values, juxtaposed with Cash's gritty and bare-bones vocal delivery. It's a perfect match-up -- Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin -- and as a result produces what I believe to be the quinessential atmosphere for Cash's style.
American IV: The Man Comes Around is a testament to Johnny Cash's impact on rock music, country and any other type of music that conveys an honest message. It's also a testament to his longevity, and ability to keep producing landmark albums, well into the latter-half of his career. Just turning 70, and constantly being able to churn out impressive and gut-wrenchingly emotional and powerful albums has most definitely helped to inspire generations after generations of devoted followers. His latest offering will no doubt only continue on with that tradition, and only keep him firmly solidified as a legend of the 20th century and beyond.
Absolutely marvellous and stunning. One of the best efforts of his career.Jeff Jacobus