J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Johnny Cash – American VI: Ain’t No Grave

Today would have been the late Johnny Cash’s 78th birthday.  No doubt The Man in Black was cooler than perhaps anyone else, but upon the release of “American VI:  Ain’t No Grave” we are reminded of just how intensely Godly and insightful he was as well.

Rarely does a musician get better as they get older.  Later in life releases are often grabs at former glory and nods to the past.  Johnny however is looking for future glory as this sparse 10 track CD speaks of a “Redeemer beckoning me” and of a Savior who will “Meet me in the middle of the air.”

We often use a collection of Cash’s Gospel songs for our time before and after services at Sovereign King, and I know several other churches in the Raleigh/Garner area that have even done some of his arrangements in their worship services.  Practically every song here would at least be appropriate for bumper music.  1 Corinthians 15:55 might even work for someone’s special music.

The American series I-VI (and box set “Unearthed”) is a significant stamp in American music history that mix Cash originals, Americana, Gospel, and cover tunes.  Even the rare missteps are peppered with Cash’s emotionally filled yet declining vocals and Rick Rubin’s sparse production makes most every tune invocative.

Obviously with only 10 songs, “Ain’t No Grave” is not a full CD.  I did fear that these were the sweepings off of the studio floor, but apparently, Rubin was patient and spaced the tracks out so that each CD would stand well on its own.  I would have to say that 9 of the 10 songs are as strong as anything done before in the series.  I can’t decide if I hope there are more CD’s left from studio outtakes.  I imagine this it, but I would be willing to listen to almost anything that Cash recorded at the end of his life, so bring on number VII if it possible.

Johnny Cash did what many in the public eye could not:  end his life with dignity and hope instead of debauchery and despair.  A man who made plenty of mistakes, Cash learned hope and love and did a good job of declaring it to the world (while alive and now even from the grave).

Pick up any of the American series and find yourself moved.  Included below are the lyrics to perhaps Cash’s last known original song.

I Corinthians 15:55 lyrics

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Grief, where is they victory?
O Life, you are a shining path.
And hope springs eternal, just over the rise,
When I see my redeemer beckoning me.

Oh row my ship over the waves of your sea
Let me find a safe port now and then
Don’t let the dark one in your sanctuary
Until it’s time to pack it in

O, row, row my ship
With the fire of your breath
And don’t lay a broadside on your ship as yet
Blow ye warm winds
When it’s chilly and wet
And don’t come to soon yet
For collecting my debt

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Grief, where is they victory?
O Life, you are a shining path.
And hope springs eternal, just over the rise,
When I see my redeemer beckoning me.

Oh let me sail on
With my ship to the East
And keep my eye on the North Star
When the journey is no good for man or for beast
I’ll be safe wherever you are

Just let me sail into your harbor of lights
And there and forever to cast out my night
Give me my task
And let me do it right
And do it with all of my might

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Grief, where is they victory?
O Life, you are a shining path.
And hope springs eternal, just over the rise,
When I see my redeemer beckoning me.

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February 25, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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