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“These songs are Johnny’s final statement. They are the truest reflection of the music that was central to his life at the time. This is the music that Johnny wanted us to hear.”
—-Rick Rubin
CASH'S POSTHUMOUS HIGHWAY
American V Is an Elegy to a Legend Who Knew It Was His Final Statement
In death, he looms as large as he did in life. Johnny Cash started working on the songs for American/Lost Highway’s American V: A Hundred Highways with longtime producer Rick Rubin the day after his wife, June Carter Cash, died on May 15, 2003, and didn’t finish until his own death nearly four months later on Sept. 12. The album comes out, appropriately enough for this American legend, on July 4. The first  single, the traditional “God’s  Gonna Cut You Down,” is at Triple A, Modern Rock and Non-Comm radio, generating 1.6 million listeners.

“Johnny said recording was his main reason for staying alive,” said Rubin, whose four previous recordings with Cash yielded five Grammy Awards for the mythic Man in Black. “This one may be my favorite of the series. It has a much different character. It’s as strong an album as Johnny ever made.”

The new album features 12 songs, including covers of Bruce Springsteen’s “Further On (Up the Road),” Rod McKuen’s “Love’s Been Good to Me,”  Don Gibson’s “A Legend in My Time,” Larry Gatlin’s “Help Me,” Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” and Ian Tyson’s “Four Strong Winds,” a Neil Young staple, as well as Cash’s “Like the 309,” the last song he ever wrote, with the lines, “Before I see Doctor Death/So it would sure be nice /If I could get my breath.” The song has been serviced to Country radio.

Since the release of 2002’s American IV: The Man Comes Around, Cash’s star has been on the ascendant with last year’s Oscar-winning biopic Walk the Line  resulting in a pair of hit albums. Island’s Legend of Johnny Cash compilation remains in the Top 50 after almost nine months, closing in on 2 million, while Wind-up’s Walk the Line soundtrack is nearing a million in sales. Columbia’s catalog label Legacy just put out Johnny Cash: Personal File, which includes archival recordings he made between 1973 and 1982.

UMG Nashville super-heavyweight Luke Lewis was on vacation with our own Dennis Lavinthal and unavailable for comment.

“We want to let the music speak for itself,” said label marketing and artist development head Andy Nelson about the label’s low-key campaign. Among the elements:

* Videos directed by American History X’s Tony Kaye for “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” and “Help Me.”

*TV spots on CBS, CNN, A&E, Fuel, History ChannelCMT, MTV2, GAC and   ABC Family.

* Music posted on Cash’s dedicated MySpace page.

* Syndicated hour-long radio special available for broadcast.

* Features in USA Today, Rolling Stone, L.A. Times, Entertainment Weekly, Blender, Interview, Village Voice and others.

“He had tremendous faith and acceptance,” said Rubin, adding there is enough material for a sixth volume. “When he knew he was going to die, he was calm and matter of fact about it.

“These songs are Johnny’s final statement. They are the truest reflection of the music that was central to his life at the time. This is the music that Johnny wanted us to hear.”

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