Picks and Pans Review: Johnny Cash

updated 07/10/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/10/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

American V: A Hundred Highways

REVIEWED BY CHUCK ARNOLD

CRITIC'S CHOICE

COUNTRY

When Johnny Cash sings "I'm Free from the Chain Gang Now" at the close of his final recording, American V, it's as if his voice has reached from beyond the grave, having found sweet liberty in the afterlife. Such is the haunting power of the fifth installment in Cash's American series, for which the country great once again teamed up with producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin. Recorded in the months before his death in 2003, the disc finds Cash, frail of body but not of spirit, poignantly looking back on the road traveled and facing his final journey. Sure, you can hear his voice breaking at times, but it only deepens the raw honesty and intimacy of his performances. While the CD includes the last song that Cash wrote, the railroad ode "Like the 309," the eclectic covers range from a heart-wrenching "If You Could Read My Mind" to Don Gibson's "A Legend in My Time," which takes on new meaning as sung by the Man in Black.
[STARS 4]

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Help Me"

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