The Man Comes Around
Lost Highway Records 

JOHNNY CASH CD cover.jpg (17610 bytes)

  Of the quartet of albums Cash has recorded over the past decade, this is the least satisfying. That’s not to say that it’s not a great collection. It’s just not as harrowing as the first. It’s not as rockin’ as the second and not as bizarrely eclectic as the third. This one tries to mix it all up and comes up a little inconsistent. Fortunately, the title track is another freshly written Cash masterpiece of Biblical theme and scope. The other highlights are his typically atypical cover choices. Here, he handles Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” with appropriate darkness, Sting’s “I Hung My Head” with just the right amount of fear and he imbues Roberta Flacks “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” with an unresolved tension not present in the original. Other highlights are the spit in the face Western-themed “Sam Hall” and a particularly haunting take on Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” that finds him sharing the mic with a detached Fiona Apple. Unfortunately (and surprisingly), Nick Cave’s appearance on Hank’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” distracts more than helps and Don Henley’s lackluster addition to his own track “Desperado” lowers the quality of this record considerably. What should’ve been learned from the original American Recordings is that Johnny Cash and a guitar are plenty. Adding anything additional risks being nothing more than distraction. You don’t need to dress a werewolf in a suit. Just let him howl. Don’t get me wrong. This is still an essential album to own. Just get it after you already have the other three American albums. (54 Music Square East, Suite 300, Nashville, TN 37203)

(Chris McKay/