Monday, April 26, 2010

Johnny Cash: American VI: Ain't No Grave

The stature of Johnny Cash, both the man and his music, continues to grow. This past February, just prior to what would have been Cash's 78th birthday, the sixth CD in the American series was released. American VI: Ain't No Grave powerfully echoes Cash's belief in Christian immortality, and like the other CDs in the American series, contains a wide variety of songs.

The songs include:

1."Ain't No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down)" (Claude Ely) – 2:53
Originally recorded by Ely in 1953
With the sound of chains rattling in the background, this song would be eerie, except that the image of rising up from the grave is a resurrection reminder of the victory we have in Christ.

2."Redemption Day" (Sheryl Crow) – 4:22
Originally recorded by Crow for the album Sheryl Crow (1996)
This song sounds a lot like Cash's great song "The Man Comes Around." It, too, affirms Christian salvation.

3."For the Good Times" (Kris Kristofferson) – 3:22
Originally recorded by Kristofferson for the album Kristofferson (1970)
No question that Ray Price did the best rendition of this song by Cash's friend, Kris Kristofferson. Cash's voice, raspy in his later years, but still resonate, nevertheless does a memorable job on this one.

4."I Corinthians 15:55" (Johnny Cash) – 3:38
Not hard to catch the Biblical content here.

5."Can't Help but Wonder Where I'm Bound" (Tom Paxton) – 3:26
Originally recorded by Paxton for the album Ramblin' Boy (1964)

6."A Satisfied Mind" (Red Hayes, Jack Rhodes) – 2:48
Originally recorded by Porter Wagoner in 1955
Not only did Porter sing this song, but Bob Dylan did an outstanding rendition on his record album called Saved. The song has a great message, especially when sung by someone who truly believes in having a satisfied mind.

7."I Don't Hurt Anymore" (Don Robertson, Walter E. Rollins) – 2:45
Originally recorded by Hank Snow in 1954 and also an R&B hit for Dinah Washington the same year
I miss Hank Snow also. For Cash to sing this song, one cannot help but have a sense of the double meaning, not necessarily contained in the song, of the absence of pain for a believer after death.

8."Cool Water" (Bob Nolan) – 2:53
Originally written by Nolan in 1936; most famous version by The Sons of the Pioneers in 1948
This is a great classic in the Western stream of what we call Country and Western music. The whole song, as originally performed by the Sons of the Pioneers, is a metaphor of spiritual thirst being finally satisfied by God.

9."Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream" (Ed McCurdy) – 3:14
Originally recorded by McCurdy in 1950
This is an unusual song of a dream of world peace.

10."Aloha Oe" (Queen Lili'uokalani) – 3:00
Originally written by Lili'uokalani in 1877; recorded by Elvis Presley in 1961 for Blue Hawaii
As in the case of several of the American series, this album ends with Cash doing a song that is out of his usual range of music (although he did so many songs out of his usual range that it is hard to pinpoint his usual range). And it is a farewell song. Very moving as the last track on this CD.

What a blessing that in these years since Cash has been gone--and the lights of this world have been dimmer--that these treasures are still being released. Like Abel, we can rejoice that "through his faith, though he died, he still speaks" (Hebrews 11:4).

Posted by Ben