Johnny Cash, "American VI: Ain't No Grave"
Some guys just know the right way to say goodbye. Johnny Cash couldn't have known exactly when he'd be exiting the mortal coil (he died in 2003), but the Man in Black had just buried his wife, June Carter Cash, and was in poor health as he recorded the last batch of his American Recordings series with producer Rick Rubin. The 10 tracks on "American VI: Ain't No Grave" are drenched in mortality, but Cash stares it full in the face without any audible fear, declaring, "Ain't no grave gonna hold my body down." In addition to Rubin's typically austere moods, the set features an all-star core of musicians (including members of the Avett Brothers) and Cash's tasteful renditions of the title track, Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times," Sheryl Crow's "Redemption Day," Tom Paxton's "Where I'm Bound" and Bob Nolan's "Cool Water." It also features new Cash original "First Corinthians, 15:55," on which his voice is slightly reedy, but still confident. Queen Lili'uokalani's "Aloha Oe" proves a fitting farewell, with just a touch of lightness and a promise of "until we meet again." We can only hope.