Album: Johnny Cash

Life, Columbia
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The Independent Culture

Johnny Cash finished compiling this fourth and final supplement to 2000's thematic triple-album Love... God... Murder only a few days before his death last year, so we can assume it offers a fair representation of what he considers best in life. As it happens, many of the tracks - culled from Cash's three-decade career with Columbia Records - could be comfortably included on one or other of the previous three anthologies, particularly God: the prospect of heaven illuminates both the memories of childhood in "Suppertime", and the sentimental account of rural life in "Country Trash", and is a constant beacon of salvation in those songs dealing with the time he was "riding the devil's train" and "life was a ball of pills and booze and gals". On more secular matters, his blue-collar affiliations are celebrated in songs such as "I'm Ragged But I'm Right", "Oney" - in which a man sees his retirement as a chance to give his boss a punch - and most comprehensively in "Man in Black", the anthemic manifesto in which he explains that he dresses in black to symbolise the plight of the poor, the illiterate, the ungodly, war casualties, and "the prisoner who has long paid for his crime". It's a comprehensive portrait of one of the few true working-class voices of America, a singer unafraid of propounding both left-liberal sentiments and the tacky patriotism of "Ragged Old Flag".