Friday, 4 December 2009

Dec. 4th: And all for no reason, just one piece of lead

Johnny Cash- American IV: The Man Comes Around (American, 2002)

The fourth of Cash's collaborations with Rick Rubin, The Man Comes Around is a mix of carefully chosen covers,  a couple of originals and some re-recordings of  older Cash songs (1957's 'Streets Of Laredo', 'Sam Hall'). The title track is a new song which came from a dream Johnny had involving the Book Of Revelations, the four horses of the Apocalypse and Queen Elizabeth II, as you do. Of the covers, some of the most potentially disastrous work best: here 'Danny Boy 'is almost enough to make you forget the myriad heinous Daniel O' Donnell (and sub-Daniel O' Donnell...) versions; just Cash and a pipe organ, and nothing else. 'Bridge Over Troubled Water,' featuring Fiona Apple doesn't quite match the original but almost, nearly makes it.
'I Hung My Head', from Sting's original, shows Cash's talent as a storyteller; the tension is racheted up to an emotional climax, where you almost feel as much for the criminal as for the victim.
The CD's crowning achievement, however, is the cover of Nine Inch Nails' 'Hurt'. Given Cash's history of addiction, it's one song he's entitled to sing, and he injects an affecting pathos into a song already full of pain and self-disgust. It's enough to put anyone off drugs for life.

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