The latest installment of Johnny Cash's epic American series, American V: A Hundred Highways, is the most poignant, cohesive album in the collection to date. Released two and a half years after the singer's death, the introspective American V centers on spirituality and mortality. The opening cover of Larry Gatlin's "Help Me" is a plaintive, minimalist guitar-and-string ballad that finds Cash calling upon the Lord to ease his loneliness, while "Like the 309" is a juke-joint mosey that recounts his health crises in the final years of his life. A cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Further On (Up the Road)" is the high point of the record, with its lyrics of redemption and haunting country-folk melody. The Tex-Mex-infused "Rose of My Heart" and the tender folk ballad "Four Strong Winds" are both moving, poetic love songs in which Cash's voice quakes and quivers with longing. A predominantly acoustic production, American V is simultaneously filled with loss and hope, faith and uncertainty, making for a truly fitting epilogue to the life of a legend.
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