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Johnny Cash -- American III: Solitary Man (American).   How fitting that this record begins with an open declaration of defiance -- Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" couldn't be more appropriate or relieving.  Anyone who ever gave a damn about great music held their breath when it was learned that Johnny Cash had been diagnosed with a form of Parkinson's Disease (Shy Drager Syndrome).  You may exhale now.  John R. Cash is back with the third in a series of great recordings for American, under the unintrusive production of Rick Rubin.  Again, Cash travels dangerous territory and claims it as his own -- "The Mercy Seat" by Nick Cave, "One" by U2, "Solitary Man" by Neil Diamond, "I See a Darkness" by Will Oldham, and "Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone)" by David Allan Coe are all covered with grave conviction.  Like the first American Recordings, the musical accompaniment is spare for most of the album, although you will hear June, Norman Blake, Sheryl Crow, Will Oldham, Tom Petty, Marty Stuart, and Randy Scruggs at different points on the record.  I saved the best guest appearance for separate mention, though: Merle Haggard sings a wonderful duet near the end of the record called "I'm Leavin' Now", a Cash original.  Although the sharp covers get most of the attention, Cash's own songwriting stands up, especially "Field of Diamonds" and "Before My Time."  It's apparent from his liner notes that the 68-year-old Cash is completely re-energized and nowhere near done: "On the question of youth and old age, I wouldn't trade my future for anyone's I know...The future is not questionable, but for me it is a path of light. Lit by those know, who enrich my life."  As usual, well said.  -TRS

Track listing:

1. I Won't Back Down (2:09)
2. Solitary Man (2:25)
3. That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day) (2:35)
4. One (3:53)
5. Nobody (3:14)
6. I See a Darkness (3:42)
7. The Mercy Seat (4:35)
8. Would You Lay With Me (In a Field of Stone) (2:41)
9. Field of Diamonds (3:15)
10. Before My Time (2:55)
11. Country Trash (1:47)
12. Mary of the Wild Moor (2:32)
13. I'm Leavin' Now (3:07)
14. Wayfaring Stranger (3:19)

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