Considered to be one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Johnny Cash, the multi-platinum-selling country music legend, redefined the genre and earned a long line of awards and accolades throughout his 40-year career, including seventeen GRAMMY Awards, a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award, nine Country Music Association awards, Academy of Country Music and MTV Awards, and he was the only artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In the 1990s, Cash entered a professional renaissance after signing with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings where his label debut launched a fertile, decade-long creative period that saw him record a variety of songs that crossed different genres and spanned nearly a century. On March 24th, Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) will release Johnny Cash’s complete American Recordings Vinyl Box Set featuring all six of that label’s albums: American Recordings, American Recordings II: Unchained, American Recordings III: Solitary Man, American Recordings IV: The Man Comes Around, American Recordings V: A Hundred Highways and American Recordings VI: Ain’t No Grave.
LP 1 – American Recordings (1994)
Released in 1994, American Recordings is a raw, stripped-down album recorded in a living room with just Cash and his acoustic guitar. The album ranks No. 366 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, has earned a GRAMMY Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album Including Best Ethnic or Contemporary Folk Recording and hit No. 23 on the Country Albums chart and No. 110 on the Billboard Top 200. American Recordings not only features Cash-penned tracks such as “Redemption,” “Like a Soldier” and “Drive On,” he also puts his stamp on a wide variety of covers such as Glenn Danzig’s “Thirteen,” Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire,” Tom Wait’s “Down There by the Train” and Nick Lowe’s “The Beast in Me.”
LP 2 – American II: Unchained (1996)
In 1996 Johnny Cash teamed up with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and recorded American II: Unchained which earned a GRAMMY Award for Best Country Album in 1997 and hit No. 26 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and No. 170 on the Billboard 200. Included are tracks such as “Country Boy,” “Mean Eyed Cat” and Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents.” Other songs are cover versions of Beck’s “Rowboat,” Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage” and “The Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea” written by June, Anita, Helen and Mother Maybelle Carter.
LP 3 – American III: Solitary Man (2000)
Once again teaming up with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Solitary Man was released in 2000 and earned Cash a GRAMMY Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for his rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man.” The album reached No. 11 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart and No. 88 on the Billboard 200. Other songs presented are Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” U2’s “One” and “Field of Diamonds” featuring backing vocals by June Carter.
LP 4 (Double Album) – American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002)
Released in 2002, The Man Comes Around is the last studio album released by Johnny Cash before his death in 2003. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and No. 22 on the Billboard 200. The Man Comes Around earned a Country Music Association Award for Album of the Year and features the single “Give My Love to Rose” which won a GRAMMY Award for Best Country Male Vocal Performance. Also featured is his re-defining cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” which won a 2003 GRAMMY Award for Best Short Form Video and 2003 Country Music Association Award for Single of the Year and Music Video of the Year. It was nominated for six MTV Awards, winning in the Best Cinematography category. “Hurt” also reached No. 33 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, No. 56 on the Country Singles chart and No. 34 on the Hot Digital Songs chart.
LP 5 – American V: A Hundred Highways (2006)
Cash’s highly anticipated posthumous album A Hundred Highways was recorded in 2002-2003 and released in 2006. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200, Country Albums and Top Internet Albums charts consecutively, with the track “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” earning a GRAMMY Award for Best Short Form Music Video in 2007. Other performances include a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Further On (Up the Road)” and Cash’s last original, “Like the 309,” a song about a train taking his casket away.
LP 6 – American VI: Ain’t No Grave (2010)
In 2010 American Recordings/Lost Highway Records released American VI: Ain’t No Grave, an album featuring music recorded during the American V: A Hundred Highways sessions. It debuted at No. 1 on the Top Digital Albums chart, No. 2 on the Top Country Albums chart and No. 3 on the Billboard 200 becoming Cash’s third Top 10 in the U.S. Featured are tracks such as “I Corinthians 15:55,” “Redemption Day” written by Sheryl Crow, “Cool Water” by Bob Nolan, and “Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound” by Tom Paxton.
The American sessions continued up until shortly before Cash died in 2003. To this day, the raw honesty of Cash’s music and lifestyle continues to captivate and resonate with generations of fans of many different styles of music.
Author: Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.