Thursday, February 25, 2010

One last goodbye

I had said my goodbyes to Johnny Cash with American IV: The Man Comes Around, and now here we are eight years and two albums later. American VI: Ain't No Grave, released this week to coincide with Johnny's 78th birthday, is the final chapter in the series and, at first listen, it's a fitting close.

I never believed any subsequent work could top the stark beauty of American IV, which sounded and felt like the end of the line, but we'll see. Each successive album seems to elevate his stature, if that is possible. There is only one Cash-penned song on American VI, which is neither here nor there, just more carefully-chosen covers. As we mentioned in Now Playing, "For the Good Times" is a beautiful tear-rendering gem.

The final song Cash wrote, "Like the 309," would have seemed a perfect ending for Ain't No Grave, but appeared on the penultimate album. We'll make sure it receives more than a footnote by posting the lyrics now:

It should be a while before I see Dr. Death
So it would sure be nice if I could get my breath
Well I'm not the crying nor the whining kind
'Till I hear the whistle of the 309

Of the 309, of the 309
Put me in my box on the 309

Take me to the depot, put me to bed
Blow an electric fan on my gnarly old head
Everybody take a look, see I'm doing fine
Then load my box on the 309

On the 309, on the 309
Put me in my box on the 309

Hey sweet baby, kiss me hard
Draw my bath water, sweep my yard
Give a drink of my wine to my Jersey cow
I wouldn't give a hootin' hell for my journey now

On the 309, on the 309

I hear the sound of a railroad train
The whistle blows and I'm gone again
It will take me higher than a Georgia pine
Stand back children, it's a 309

It's a 309, it's a 309
Put me in my box on the 309

A chicken in the pot and turkey in the corn
Ain't felt this good since jubilee morn
Talk about luck, well I got mine
As me comin' down like a 309

Write me a letter, sing me a song
Tell me all about it, what I did wrong
Meanwhile I will be doing fine
Then load my box on the 309

On the 309, on the 309
Goin' to get out of here on the 309

Tomorrow we have a birthday to celebrate. Be sure to wear something black.


  1. I only have one of the Cash / Rubin records, I think the first one. They're good, but I prefer to remember JC in his prime ... making sweet boom-chika music with Luther Perkins.

  2. A newspaper in the Middle East might be one of the last places you'd expect to find a reflective piece on Johnny Cash and his posthumous releases ... but there it was, big as can be, jumping off the page at me just a couple of days ago (and pretty much agreeing with Charles' sentiments).
    It's a good read: