Johnny Cash's final album, AMERICAN V: A HUNDRED HIGHWAYS, is a moving and fitting swan song for the legendary performer. Like Cash's other recordings with producer Rick Rubin, AMERICAN V is quiet, intense, and minimal; it creates a thrilling intimacy by keeping the focus on Cash's aging voice and increasingly soulful, nuanced phrasing.
The album was produced piecemeal, with Cash's vocal tracks recorded mere months before the artist's death in 2003, and the backing tracks added two years later. Yet the album coheres remarkably well, thanks in large part to the fine musicians on hand (including ace session guitarist Smokey Hormel). But this is Cash's show through and through. Whether on covers (Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind"), originals ("Like the 309," the last song Cash ever wrote), or spirituals ("I'm Free From the Chain Gang Now," the album's stirring, heartbreakingly appropriate closer), Cash sounds like no one but himself--weary, wise, and touched, perhaps, by an unseen hand
Rolling Stone (p.96) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Rubin had an immaculate sense of how to frame Cash's voice -- these stark, mostly acoustic arrangements don't try to conceal the singer's ruined instrument but find authority in its quavers and crags."
Rolling Stone (p.103) - Ranked #14 in Rolling Stone's "The Top 50 Albums Of 2006" -- "[T]here is a deep strength and dignity in his performances..."
Spin (p.83) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "The arrangements -- acoustic guitars, piano, harpsichord, a modest church organ, a small string section -- frame him impeccably."
Entertainment Weekly (p.158) - "The man's spirituality...is everywhere....Completely representative of the faithful old man he had become, having long ago shed his outlaw image..." -- Grade: A-
Q (p.109) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Full of humanity, declarations of eternal love and the prospect of heaven, it makes a dignified final addition to the American Recordings series."
Q (p.124) - Ranked #22 in Q Magazine's "100 Greatest Albums of 2006" -- "A fine swansong."
No Depression (p.104) - "The results are gorgeous, haunting. The moaning, tolling cellos that assist Cash down to his knees on the prayer 'Help Me', for example, transform this album opener into one of Cash's most moving performances ever."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.89) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he dignity and sharp poetic instincts on AMERICAN V are classic Cash."