Series: Johnny Cash – American Recordings III: Solitary Man
And away we go with American III, an absolute gem of a record. Wiki says his health had been declining between II and III, a period of four years, but I don’t hear much in his voice to betray it.
Starting the album off with the defiant I Won’t Back Down, on which Cash gives a perfect rendition (with backing vocals and organ playing from Tom Petty). The song sounds built for Cash. Straight from there into an excellent cover of Neil Diamond’s Solitary Man (also featuring Tom Petty on vocals). This track won him a Best Male Country Vocal Performance Grammy. Oh yes.
The old chestnut That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day) is a lovely acoustic guitar/piano run-through. With the same set-up, he next tackles U2’s One and effortlessly makes it his own. The original is a classic, but this one has a different (and completely pleasing) soul all on its own.
Nobody is an old Egbert Williams track from 1906, but again it’s perfectly chosen for Cash. So great. Then it’s Will Oldham’s I See A Darkness (with Oldham joining in on vocals) and, once again, it’s gorgeous. I seem to be writing that about each track, but it’s so true!
Like now, it’s Nick Cave’s Mercy Seat. My goodness! How can you not just adore this record? Fantastic! Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone) is a David Allan Coe song, first recorded by Tanya Tucker. It has that old-time spiritual-style feel. Lovely.
Field Of Diamonds is a track Cash made with Waylon Jennings in 1986. Here it features June Carter Cash and Sheryl Crow on vocals. At first I was concerned Crow would muck up that ageless duo, but she comports herself well enough. I liked it.
Next come two Cash originals, Before My Time and Country Trash, both of which recall the first record in the series. Just Johnny and an acoustic guitar, sounding like he’s right here in the living room with us. I loved it.
Mary Of The Wild Moor was a Dennis Turner song, recorded by the Louvin Brothers. Cash easily does it justice, with a bit of swing, a bit of a celtic feel, and some country too, of course. I loved the violin from Laura Cash, here. And hey, that’s Sheryl Crow on accordion! Yes, you read that correctly.
I’m Leaving Now is a Cash original. This version is a total gem, with Cash and Merle Haggard trading vocals. Haggard also adds guitar to this track, and Laura Cash rips a great violin solo too. Hot damn.
And lastly, the old traditional Wayfaring Stranger brings this incredible record to a satisfying close. This is a highlight track, that violin, and hey! Sheryl Crow on accordion again. They just nailed this one.
Other players throughout this record (not mentioned above) include the Heartbreakers, Marty Stuart, and Randy Scruggs. So much goodness, here.
I loved I and II, and I’ve loved III, as well. What a series!