Sound — 9
A Hundred Highways is the fifth album that the Man in Black was working on with producer Rick Rubin for the American series of albums. It continues along the same lines with a mixture of cover songs and Cash originals. This album, however, has a special poignancy as it was the album Cash was working on when he died. The vocals were the only part Cash recorded, the instruments were recorded after his death. Fittingly this is an album that never strays too far from the melancholy, acheived using the stripped down sound that Cash was renowned for. From the vocals it is clear that Cash was not long for this earth during recordings, on some tracks his voice is weak and hoarse and yet on others the power of his voice still shines through.
Lyrics — 9
Unlike previous American albums that dealt with a diverse range of topics this recording is more limited in scope. It focuses around mediations on, unsurprisingly, Love, Death and God. The songs on this album show a man coming to terms with the futility of human life, a man who has put his days of youthful troublemaking behind him and is ready to reflect on his life. The album follows an almost natural progression of thoughts from desperation and despair (Help Me) through finding solace in religion (I Came to Believe) and onto mourning for lost love ones before ending on songs of redemption (I'm Free from the Chaingang Now). Well in keeping with the artist's faith. The album is also noteworthy for including the last song ever written by Johnny Cash: like the 309 where he invisions life as a train journey which inevitably must end.
Overall Impression — 9
Posthumous works can often be disapointing, the works of greeding families wanting to make the most of their deceased relatives body of work. Thankfully this is not the case for A Hundred Highways. The care that has clearly gone into the album shows that it is more a labour of love than a badly timed cash-in. This album stays true to the spirit that Johnny Cash embodied while he was alive and is a fitting tribute to one of the legends of our time. An album that has the power to move the listener to tears but that leaves the listener all the better for it. A glorious album.