to get back to demographics, the revival of Cash at the age
of 61 years is a parable about the power of heartfelt music.
No way would record industry types imagine that Johnny Cash
could cover a Nine Inch Nails song (Hurt) or Glenn Danzig (Thirteen)
or Soundgarden (Rusty Cage). Yet he did and constantly during
the recordings, music outlaws such as punk rocker Joe Strummer
to cult figure Nick Cave would visit him and end up recording
first three discs of the box set start out with Cash solo with
just his guitar reinterpreting songs that he has been famous
for - Long Black Veil and Flesh and Blood. In fact, they are
demos in spirit. And this became the basis for American Recordings,
Cash's debut on Rubin's label. Then other musicians start joining
him, most importantly Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, who became
the backing band for the second album, Unchained. It's important
to note that Cash can turn any song into his song, as long as
he feels that he's telling the story. While he initially resisted
covering Neil Young's Pocahontas because he couldn't connect
with Young's surreal lyrics, he finally connected with the song's
intensity and mood. It's a gem and you can finally hear it now.
the third disc, you can hear Cash's health deteriorating in
his trembling vocal. But that makes the songs even more heartbreaking.
His cover of Jim Webb's Wichita Lineman has him barely able
to hit the high notes but you can feel him in the song "searching
for another overload." And when he duets with Joe Strummer
on Bob Marley's Redemption Song, you can feel Cash summing up
his whole career.
shadow of death looms ominously on disc four, which has Cash
singing all the hymns that he grew up with. Almost every track
rings of his own death. And Cash picks all the songs that he
sang for his brother, Jack's funeral, and the song he sang on
his father's deathbed. The final disc sums up the best tracks
on Rubin's Cash releases.
Music is that intangible. And it's that powerful. When the music
industry tells you that the future is downloading songs, you
know that they have given up on music as culture. You know that
they wouldn't have a clue about how to love an artist like Johnny