Yet another volume in the Johnny Cash: American series has been announced, with a scheduled release date of February 26. This will be volume number six in the series, and it's the final one, they swear.
Though the American series, which began in 1994, mostly features Cash's noticeably weakened (increasingly so as the series progressed) but still incredibly authoritative voice on traditional folk and gospel songs and country music standards, it's more famous for the stunt covers producer Rick Rubin got Cash to do. Most famously, his version of Nine Inch Nails "Hurt" made the original seem cheery (also irrelevant), but he also covered Depeche Mode ("Personal Jesus"), Neil Diamond ("Solitary Man"), and most awesomely Nick Cave ("The Mercy Seat," which you must listen to below before you proceed any further.)
Wow. Why don't you listen to that again? I don't mind waiting. But before you get too excited, the press release says the track listing for American VI is scheduled to "include Sheryl Crow's moving 'Redemption Day,' close Cash friend Kris Kristofferson's 'For The Good Times,' 'Can Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound' by Tom Paxton, Bob Nolan's 'Cool Water,' the hopeful 'Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream' by Ed McCurdy, J.H. Red Hayes and Jack Rhodes's 'Satisfied Mind,' Queen Lili'uokalani's song of farewell 'Aloha Oe,' and the never before heard Cash original, 'I Corinthians: 15:55,' written over the last three years of his life."
The big news I guess is that Sheryl Crow song, but until I hear it, I'm going to be afraid that's the sort of embarrassing studio artifact Rubin should've erased out of respect for the dead. "For the Good Times" will probably be horribly depressing and awesome, and if anyone can wring some feeling out of "Aloha Oe" it'd be Cash. The Cash original is obviously something to look forward to, but how long before we let the man go, and let his already phenomenal body of work stand on its own? In case you're wondering, I Corinthians: 15:55 reads, "Where, oh death, is your victory? Where, oh death, is your sting?"
Do these releases serve to remind us that artists can produce meaningful work their entire lives, help us not only to rebel as teenagers and relate to others and ourselves as adults but also to cope with our own aging and eventual death — if we can keep from looking away in their final years? Or is this just a ghoulish cash grab, selling tickets for a peek inside the coffin of a legend? See also, Michael Jackson.