Most posthumous releases are usually trumped up re-mixes that should never see the light of day to begin with, or rap compilations featuring a recently shot artist and the hottest producers of the moment. Even Johnny Cash's death spawned a flurry of greatest hits compilations and “lost sessions” that probably should have been saved for a different box set somewhere down the line.

American V: A Hundred Highways , Cash's final recordings made with producer Rick Rubin, however, deserve to be placed amongst some of the best records put out by the Man in Black throughout his entire career.

Beginning with religious songs, a familiar Cash territory, the record slides gracefully into “Like the 309,” a train song depicting a roaring locomotive carrying away his coffin. Eerily reminiscent of his circumstances only a few months after these recordings were made, Cash sings about death as if he was counting the hours until it took him over.

A cover of Gordon Lightfoot's “If You Could Read My Mind” seems more like a death message rather than the lost love song it once was. Perhaps it is Cash's legend that has us hearing songs this way, but it is the sign of the artist as a musical genius. Cash, like he masterfully did turning Trent Reznor's “Hurt” from a heroin ballad into a last gasp of air from a dying man's breath seems to easily make each of these songs his own.  

Rubin's overdubs are perfectly suited for this swan song, and he did just enough without losing any of Cash's aura and voice. American V: A Hundred Highways is a brilliant way to not only end Cash's American Recordings, but a perfectly spun farewell to a brilliant legend of a man.

Grade: A+