Johnny Cash

American V: A Hundred Highways

When my dad died in May, I inherited his stereo and vintage vinyl collection. Among the 14 Johnny Cash albums were three of the five the Man in Black recorded for the Sun label. I’ve been rediscovering the joys of vinyl—and of that voice that straddled baritone, with one foot in bass and one in alto. Cash’s last album, released on Independence Day, doesn’t have his old vocal range, but by God, it’s got the guts. “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” rasps between an avenging Lord and the resignation of inevitable karma. He jokes in one original song, “Like the 309,” about his asthma, even as his pipes wheeze. The cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Further on Up the Road” has the most energy, but “Four Strong Winds” touches the power of his prime. I wish I had it on vinyl. I wish I could play it for my dad.