Here’s Johnny! Without any second thought, Johnny Cash is one of the greatest and most respected country artists to ever live, and now he’s back to solidify this statement with his newest album American Recordings (1994) which I will be reviewing in this column. Although Cash received mediocre reviews on his previous 1991 album The Mystery of Life, he has made a resurgence into the country music world through American Recordings, a simple but yet powerful record which tells of many dark narratives that share a close resemblance to Cash’s own life struggles and inner conflicts. In this album, Cash and his producer Rick Rubin decided to get back to the basics of country music and involve solely Cash’s voice and his acoustic guitar in every song. Cash is highly regarded as a gratifying storyteller through music, which is what he aimed to highlight in this album to re-engage his already wide fan base. Although Cash is already musically accomplished and has nothing to prove to his fans or critics like myself, he decided to compile American Recordings to re-establish his position as an American legend and an exceptional artist with natural talent.”Tennessee Stud” is the ninth track on American Recordings and I consider it to be the best song on the album. The anecdote that Cash delivers through this song in addition to it being a live recording makes this tune a very noteworthy experience to listen to. The listener discerns a prodigious amount of energy and laughter from Cash and his live audience as he tells the story of an adolescent boy and his struggles through the lyrics along with the upbeat acoustic performance associated with this tune. Cash provides this light-hearted song as a contrast to other songs on the album which exhibit a woeful nature to them and in effect, listeners are able to experience the optimistic and buoyant personality of Johnny Cash that many haven’t seen before. Cash’s smooth and deep voice offers as a complement to his rigorous skill as a rhythm guitarist, which is displayed effectively through the chord progressions in this song. Tennessee Stud stands out from other songs on this album because Cash is able to tell a captivating story to the listener that flows well with the basic but yet potent rhythm of this tune.”Thirteen” is the sixth recording on the American Recordings album. The gloomy but significant lyrics that Cash expresses in this tune combined with a perfervid, rhythm guitar performance is able to embrace the listener and muster their full attention. The character portrayed in the narrative of this song was essentially born unlucky and developed a bad boy persona over time, which fits with the same theme of many country and blues songs that Cash has delivered before. Cash’s voice through the lyrics and story of this tune displays raw emotion that flows well with the simplicity that the acoustic guitar brings through the chord progressions. The tempo of this song is marginally faster than others on this album which increases my appreciation of hearing Johnny Cash play his acoustic guitar whilst singing in his commanding but inviting voice, especially with him being 62 years of age.”The Beast in Me” is the third recording on the American Recordings album. I found that in this record, Cash really shows his pure talent and personality here as the listener is able to relate their own life struggles to the lyrical message which is accompanied by an undemanding but yet soothing acoustic guitar performance from Cash. Cash is able to profoundly identify with this song as he himself has a dismal past dealing with the blunders of substance abuse and he uses voice modulation effectively during points in the lyrics that Cash personally attaches with. Although the message of this song doesn’t directly reference addiction in any fashion, this makes the lyrics ambiguous and open to the interpretation of the listener, which makes this tune that much more sensational to experience. In my interpretation, the lyrics of this tune reflect the degenerate side of human nature similar to a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality, one that sometimes we are not able to control and Cash uses this as an opportunity to connect with the listener on a more personal level while delivering an effortless acoustic guitar performance, which is in essence the power of a great performance. “Bird on a Wire” is the eighth song on the American Recordings album. Although I never cared for the Leonard Cohen version of this tune, Cash’s voice of passion pairs perfectly together over his acoustic performance of a slower tempo associated with this tune. Cash is able to deliver a new interpretation of the narrative through the lyrics of this song which tells of a brightened darkness in his former years that adds something special to this cover and gives the listener a new analysis of the subject matter. Leonard Cohen was more of a writer than he was a singer, and to hear Cash’s vocal performance of this song is astonishing, not to mention his effortless execution on the acoustic guitar. In conclusion, Cash’s emotional recital of this song makes the listener feel that this song was made for him and he delivers a great rendition of the Leonard Cohen classic.”Why Me Lord” is the fifth song on the American Recordings album and the last song I have chosen to review for this album. Although this song is a cover of the original Kris Kristofferson classic, it fits Cash remarkably well as he is very much a spiritual and religious man who is very devoted to his belief in God and studies of the bible. The listener is able to detect a great sense of genuine emotion as Cash cries out to God through the lyrics of this song and puts all his faith in the Lord’s plan for him along with a heartfelt acoustic performance. Cash expresses through the lyrics that he found himself through God and has gained a broader perspective on life. I would hope that listeners recognize that Johnny Cash does not sing about God because it will create more record deals but because he truly believes in the faith and therefore makes this song more spiritually appealing, especially since Cash delivers a strong acoustic performance in this tune as well. Johnny Cash was and still is the face of country music and his popularity is only increasing. Cash is more than just a musical giant, he is an American hero who is well able to show his fans and critics what true musical art really sounds like through this album. Cash never backed down from pressure and always wore his heart out on his sleeve which is what I would like to see more artists undertake. I am rating Johnny Cash’s album American Recordings ? stars because even though Cash is getting older and his voice is becoming grizzled, he’s never afraid to sing with emotion and confidence. In addition, I found his execution of the acoustic guitar to be appealing and extraordinary because of the fact that his rhythm guitar performance of considerable virtuosity itself is able to grab the listeners attention without the use of other instruments. I can’t give American Recordings a perfect rating because I found a couple of songs to be somewhat sluggish and would carry on for too long. All in all, this album by Johnny Cash accomplished what it set out to do as the producer Rick Rubin wanted to put Cash out there on a solo album so people could rediscover him all over again, and for that it does a phenomenal job.