All the reviewers have been hot on Johnny Cash's apparently-still-in-progress set of "American" recordings, which if a jazz singer did them would be called "standards". So I picked up up #IV in the series at Christmas 2002 and it's got its hooks into me pretty deep.
I'm not sure why. Johnny's voice is beyond frayed, beyond tired, beyond not-what-it-once-was; in fact it's frankly ugly in more than a few places. One reason to like this is the songs, which I'd be happy to listen to pretty well anyone sing: The Man Comes Around, a deeply weird Cash composition with lyrics from the Book of Revelation and an interesting back story in the CD liner; Hurt, by that well-known crooner Trent Raznor; Give My Love to Rose, Cash country cornpone; Bridge Over Troubled Water, Johnny's way out of his territory but does well, fabulous backing vocals from Fiona Apple; I Hung My Head, by Sting; First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, oh well; Personal Jesus hmmm; In My Life, well you can't go wrong; Sam Hall, good traditional country cornpone; Danny Boy, just Johnny and an organ, I wept; Desperado, with Frey on vocals; I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, Hank, well obviously, except for it's a duet with Nick Cave which is awesome conceptually but really doesn't quite come off; Streets of Laredo, cornpone again, not much heart in it; Tear Stained Letter, the band actually rocks out modestly; and We'll Meet Again, with the whole Cash family on harmonies.
The production is spare, and the instruments mostly get out of the way, leaving the focus squarely on That Voice, which is carrying along a lot of history and experience and miles, along with these mostly pretty wonderful tunes.