American VI: Ain't No Grave


Generally favorable reviews - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 20
  2. Negative: 0 out of 20
  1. Fortified by his Christian faith, he lends a cracked gravity to souvenirs of cornball sentiment ranging in tone from Ed McCurdy's political "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream" to Queen Lili'uokalani's escapist "Aloha Oe," which close an album that also includes the traditional title song, a Sheryl Crow number about redemption, "Cool Water," and the tenderest "For the Good Times" I've ever heard.
  2. There are none of the folk-alt-rock karaoke selections of previous American discs on American VI: Ain't No Grave, just 10 wholly appropriate picks that speak to the gravity of ?Johnny Cash's situation and his joy?in both life and death.
  3. The 10 songs on American VI find Cash sounding frail but determined, and the material doesn't let him down.
  4. The music casts long shadows, packed with foreboding. But Cash's voice isn't particularly morbid or self-pitying. Instead, it's tinged by longing--not for what he's leaving behind, but for what's next.
  5. 88
    Comprised of tracks recorded with Rick Rubin right up until Cash's death in late 2003, American VI is a fitting send-off for the Man in Black.
  6. In addition to Rubin's typically austere moods, the set features an all-star core of musicians (including members of the Avett Brothers) and Cash's tasteful renditions of the title track, Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times," Sheryl Crow's "Redemption Day," Tom Paxton's "Where I'm Bound" and Bob Nolan's "Cool Water."
  7. If there were any justice, Ain't No Grave would be the last album released under Cash's name. It is not only a compelling contribution to his legacy, but an offering that closes the historic American Recordings series with the same stamp of quality that began it.
  8. Ain't No Grave strengthens the overall series.
  9. From the church-bell-ringing, banjo-plucking funereal title track opener to the into-the-sunset Hawaiian ballad Aloha Oe that closes the album in perfect cinematic form, Cash sounds completely at ease, and wholly preoccupied, with the approach of his own death.
  10. Uncut
    While never denying the quavering fragility of his voice, these arrangements, sympathetic, spartan, largely acoustic, frame what remains so it's only the strength--Cash's abiding defining characteristic--that you hear. [Apr 2010, p.89]
  11. Mojo
    That's the master interpreter, though older and creakier. He brings the song to you in detail. [Apr 2010, p.93]
  12. The result is the capstone building block of Rubin's iconic monument to Cash, a larger-than-life musician who remained poignantly, thrillingly human until the very end.
  13. Not all of American VI has such nerve, which was more common on the earliest releases in the series.
  14. You can hear that Cash is closing in on the end on Ain't No Grave; his basso profundo thins out in spots to a ragged wheeze. And yet he is unmistakably sprightly and alive, delivering each song with a master-vocal stylist's gift for phrasing, and turning the Hawaiian standard "Aloha Oe" into a sly, sexy come-on.
  15. Under The Radar
    His inimitable voice sounds strong and resolute in the face of trial and tribulations. It often seems that every word takes on an added gravity here. [Winter 2010, p.70]

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