This is one of my favorite all time records and my second favorite of his under “The Legend of Johnny Cash.” To me, it’s the best of the American Recordings Sessions. Thank you Rick Rubin for getting Johnny Cash in your studio with a guitar and a stripped down sound. It really lets his gravitas come out. The style he used in the previous almost 50 years got to be very standardized. Johnny Cash is my favorite musician. All ratings are from the 1 to 5 stars on iTunes. * – Terrible, ** – Meh/fair, *** – Good/solid, **** – Great, ***** – Superb. In parantheis is who wrote these songs.
1. The Man Comes Around (Johnny Cash) — Really strong first song that gets to why these American sessions are so good, although this song does have the full band. ****
2. Hurt (Trent Reznor) – The song that really got me into Johnny Cash. You can feel the pain of his voice from his addictions. He made a great Nine Inch Nails song so much more heart wrenching by slowing it down. You can absolutely feel how much of this song and it’s lyrics are about his own life. I think it also about losing his beloved wife June Carter Cash. Amazing song, still one of my favorite ten Johnny Cash songs. *****
Lenny is also helping me by being adorable and sitting on my desk, I really love having a portable keyboard. And even has volume, mute, fast forward, pause, rewind and a key to turn off the monitor.
3. Give My Love to Rose (Johnny Cash) — Another beautiful, sad song. About loss and love. Also about jail and lost lives and relationships. Johnny Cash can say so much in a few minutes. ****
4. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Paul Simon) — This is a song that is one of the key works of genius of Simon and Garfunkel. No one hits high notes quite like Art Garfunkel. But Johnny Cash turns this into an entirely different song. Much more full of pain and loss. I love both versions, they are both so different and beautiful. ****
5. I Hung My Head (Sting) — This is one of the songs on this album I don’t know as well. I usually have my music on shuffle. Still a very good song but one of the weaker ones on this album. ***
6. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Ewan MacCall) — Here come the tears, this is one of the songs that makes me think of my mom and dad. It’s only been 23 months since my dad Henry Edmunds Davis passed away on April 1st, 2013. It’s about love, and finding a life partner. So much beauty. So much sadness. *****
7. Personal Jesus (Martin Gore) — It’s amazing how this song has changed since Depeche Mode released in the 1980s. Becomes much of a spiritual when it’s on acoustic guitar. ****
8. In My Life (John Lennon and Paul McCartney) — Just a beautiful and heartfelt song. Another one that makes me think of me and my wife’s dearly departed fathers. My wife’s father Walter Maheux passed away in April, 2012. Losing a parent takes a long time to heal if it ever will. Another song with the original by the Beatles and this stripped down cover by Johnny Cash are both amazing. *****
9. Sam Hall (Tex Ritter) — Solid country song and definitely has the feel of a lot of his country career. Would be one of the stronger tracks on a lot of Johnny Cash album but not this one. Still very good. ***
10. Danny Boy (Frederick Weatherly) — Absolute standard. Johnny Cash’s version is beautiful. Another one where the spareness of much of the American recording series comes through. I forgot this version had the organ in it. I guess the pipes are calling in more than one way. ****
11. Desperado (Glenn Frey and Don Henley) — I like this version much more than the Eagles version. I guess I just like a more minimalistic style and of course Johnny Cash’s voice is like nobody else. Your prison is walking through this world all around says so much of loss with Johnny Cash’s voice. ****
12. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Hank Williams) — So much slower and less honky tonk that the Hank Williams classic. There is a lot of loneliness in this song. Duet with Nick Cave which I think actually hurts it. Prefer the classic Hank Williams version. ***
13. Tear Stained Letter (Johnny Cash) — A good Johnny Cash but not up to the greatness of the rest of the album. ***
14. Streets of Laredo (Traditional) — A lovely song, it doesn’t have the emotional resonance of most of the album. ***
15. We’ll Meet Again (Hughie Charles and Ross Parker) — This is definitely about losing June and beautiful. It also makes me think of the absolutely genius end of Dr. Strangelove. Not sure who is part of the chorus. ****
This is without question one of my favorite albums and has a lot of songs I have played many, many times. Including We’ll Meet Again, Bridge Over Troubled Water, In My Life, Hurt, Personal Jesus and the Man Comes Around. .
Here is some more info from Wikipedia about this album if you are interested, Wikipedia is a fabulous resource.
Here is the liner notes about everyone who was on each song.
Absolute classic. A must own.