The Deal: Man in Black's final studio album is final in series produced by Rick Rubin.
The Good: It's almost like there are two versions of Johnny Cash – the rough and rugged Man in Black who wrote so many classic songs in his unique style and the older, frail Cash who had a weathered voice that was full of emotion. This latest release is a perfect example of that latter version. The music is secondary to his vocals on every song. The album opens with the title track, "Ain't No Grave," featuring Scott and Seth Avett – only musically, though, as the vocals are all Cash. While the vocal range and power are no longer in his voice as much, his tones are wrought with emotion and sentimentality. You can hear the heartache in "For the Good Times" and "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream." The American series, in some ways, seems to give a more personal look and insight into Cash's life from a man at the end of the road and looking back at his travels.
The Bad: The only bad thing is that Cash is no longer around to make more albums ... well, that and his cover of "Aloha Oe" sounded incredibly out of place compared with the rest of the album. I didn't picture Cash as much of a Hawaiian music-type, though the "until we meet again" lyric does resonate a bit.
The Verdict: It's impossible to say "his best album" because he released so many great ones ... this is simply another one to add to the list.