The late Johnny Cash started recording A Hundred Highways as soon as production ended on 2002’s American IV: The Man Comes Around, which is quite amazing considering that The Man in Black was at death’s door. As producer Rick Rubin writes in the liner notes, “Some days his voice was weak and he sounded like he was panting, trying to get enough air. Other days his voice boomed with power and gravity.”
As with past American releases, Rubin includes those moments of weakness and, as always, they add an extra layer of sorrow, especially on album opener “Help Me” (“Oh Lord, help me to walk another mile, just one more mile, I’m tired of walking alone”) and on first single “If You Could Read My Mind,” where Cash is barely able to catch his breath in between bars and the song is reminiscent of his cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” from The Man Comes Around. Other essential tracks include “Like the 309,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Further on Up the Road” and “I’m Free from the Chain Gang Now,” all which has a laid back, folksy feel – though you can still hear the rebel in Cash’s music and baritone voice.
Rubin and Cash supposedly recorded over 50 songs throughout his final days but if A Hundred Highways is his last release (rumour has it, it’s not) it’s a fitting end to a career that has spanned over five decades. The Man in Black will forever transcend time and will always be a source of inspiration to people worldwide. (American Recordings/Lost Highway) Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Stars