March 14, 2010

"Ain't No Grave"

Daniel Kalder reviews the new CD Johnny Cash-American VI: Ain't No Grave

Well there ain’t no grave
Gonna hold my body down
Well there ain’t no grave
Gonna hold my body down
When I hear that trumpet sound
I’m gonna get up out of the ground


The song mixes defiance with a joyful declaration that death is not the end. And it is this bedrock of faith, of an elemental Christianity that liberates Cash from fear and informs the rest of the album. This is the sound of a man at peace with himself, with his life, who is ready to meet his Redeemer. Indeed, he’s so at peace he can take a Sheryl Crow song, Redemption Song and make you forget about her musings on toilet paper and suspect for the first time that she might actually be a talented songwriter. Then he takes Kristofferson’s For the Good Times- basically a song in which a horny goat tries to emotionally blackmail his ex into giving him some pity sex- and turns it into a moving reflection on a long life nearly at its end. The fourth track, 1 Corinthians 15:55 is the last song Cash ever wrote and begins with the lines from scripture:

Oh Death where is thy sting?
Oh grave where is thy victory?

Before Cash continues with a plea to God for shelter, guidance, forgiveness and mercy; but it’s a plea given in the certainty that God is merciful, delivered over a cheerful waltz. Cash knows that if he asks, he shall receive.

Posted by Jill Fallon at March 14, 2010 7:01 PM | Permalink