In the music spotlight: Johnny Cash


Issue: "Beginning of the end," March 29, 2003

Despite the allusions to Job and Revelation that Johnny Cash himself makes in the liner notes, the verse that best sums up American IV: The Man Comes Around (American/Lost Highway) is 2 Corinthians 12:9. From the music's stark, acoustic instrumentation to the hushed, broken voice with which Mr. Cash sings nowadays, the album boasts in infirmity that the power of Christ may rest upon it.

Like the first three American albums, IV finds Mr. Cash singing an imaginatively unpredictable mixture of cover songs (Beatles, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Eagles) and originals amid the sympathetic support of first-rate rock musicians who know that every session may be his last. More so than the others, however, IV testifies to God's strength made perfect in weakness. Not only is the "Man" who "comes around" Jesus Christ, but the song that Mr. Cash has written to celebrate his return is an apocalyptic anthem worthy of his old friend Bob Dylan at his best.

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