American III: Solitary Man

Johnny Cash

AMerican, 2000

http://www.johnnycash.com

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/06/2014

By the time Johnny Cash had produced American III: Solitary Man for Rick Rubin’s American Recordings, he had reestablished himself as a respected elder statesman of country and Americana music that still had the chops to release worthwhile new material rather than living off of past success. As his health has begun declining by this point, this third release in the American series seems much more subdued that the previous offering. This album also installed the “American:” nomenclature on the albums that make his American Recordings series easily recognizable, with the added benefit of giving a discophile an easy method of listening to the albums in the order they were released.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The core of American III is solid version of several covers, specifically, “I Won’t Back Down,” which some may see as a defiant anthem to his illnesses except that Cash didn’t write it, “Solitary Man,” U2’s “One” and Nick Cave’s “The Mercy Seat.” Another remarkable cover is a forgotten Bert Williams tune called “Nobody,” which was a vaudeville hit at the turn of the 20th century. 

Cash also turned in some good originals for this album as well.  “Field Of Diamonds” is performed as a duet with June Carter, whose voice at this stage was not at its best, but the song has its charm. “Before My Time” is a poignant song of love in old age, and “Country Trash” is a tongue-in-cheek swipe at all those who look down on rural people. “I’m Leavin’ Now” is Cash’s best original offering on the album, and even though it sounds very similar to Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On,” the duet with Merle Haggard on this track is superb. One final song of note is the last track, “Wayfaring Stranger,” is an old yet ageless spiritual (also sometimes known as “Wayfaring Pilgrim”) that is sung beautifully, with a haunting accordion backdrop that blends easily into the ominous minor key melody.

On American III, Cash seems to have hit his stride with the American label, settling into an Americana sound, which is exactly what he wanted: not too many frills, but enough to keep the listener engaged. The wide expanse of song selection also keeps the material interesting as the album progresses.

Rating: B+

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