Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The 51 Best Johnny Cash "American Recordings" Songs

This was originally going to be ‘The Best Johnny Cash Songs,’ but such a project might simply be beyond me.  I’m a big Cash fan but even I can’t sort though 50 years of recordings, covers, albums, EPs to find the best of his best.  To whittle it down, I’ve stuck to the six “American Recordings” records Cash made late in his career with Rick Rubin, as well as a couple of tracks from the “Unearthed” box set from these sessions.  (I really need to track that full box set down, since several of the tracks I’ve heard from that collaboration are awesome, including a couple of songs that made the top-13 on this list.)

Anyway, Johnny Cash!  What’s left to be said about a capital-L legend like the Man In Black?  He’s among the most beloved musical stars of all time, and I daresay perhaps the most respected.  He had such an air of humble authority about him that can perhaps be summed up by my friend Misha’s description of Cash’s “Personal Jesus” cover.  As Misha put it, “Cash’s version is dead serious.  Like, ‘Look, if you call me (literally) on the phone I will answer and put you through to God…and you will be a believer.’ “  It’s hard to pull off this kind of rock-solid credibility in music, though it helped that Cash’s unbelievable voice actually sounded like God (or a space coyote) delivering advice.

As always with these lists, I’m basing my ranking on personal preference.  If you asked me to re-rank things again tomorrow, the list could be quite different since all of these songs are pretty awesome.  I cut it off as #51 since after that, it started getting into ‘good but not great’ territory and we only have the creme de la creme around here.  If you have a favourite Cash/American Recordings track that I didn’t include, pretend it was number #52 and that I hemmed and hawed for hours before painfully excluding it.

Also, if you’re looking over the names of these songs and wondering, “wait, Johnny Cash did a cover of THAT?” then the answer is yes he did, and it’s even more awesome than you imagine.

Enjoy the list!

51. Tear Stained Letter
50. Bird On A Wire
49. Why Me Lord?
48. You Are My Sunshine
47. Like The 309
46. I’m Free From The Chain Gang Now
45. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
44. Down There By The Train
43. Big Iron
42. Further On Up The Road
41. Let The Train Blow The Whistle
40. Drive On
39. Rose Of My Heart
38. Four Strong Winds
37. Redemption Day
36. Delia’s Gone
35. Streets Of Laredo
34. Love’s Been Good To Me
33. Personal Jesus
32. I’m Leaving Now
31. Rowboat
30. Wayfaring Stranger
29. Before My Time
28. Like A Soldier
27. In My Life
26. One
25. Bridge Over Troubled Water
24. Unchained
23. The Man Comes Around
22. Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea
21. I Won’t Back Down
20. If You Could Read My Mind
19. Mary Of The Wild Moor
18. On The Evening Train
17. God’s Gonna Cut You Down
16. We’ll Meet Again
15. Rusty Cage
14. Desperado
13. Father And Son
12. Thirteen
11. Nobody
10. Spiritual
9. I’ve Been Everywhere
8. Ain’t No Grave
7. Solitary Man
6. Redemption Song
5. I See A Darkness
4. Sea Of Heartbreak
3. The Mercy Seat
2. Hurt
1. I Hung My Head

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