Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cash: American IV Album Review

I know I am a little behind the times in reviewing this album, since it has been out since November of 2002. So I thought I would bring some of my thoughts (having just purchased the album) along with some other thoughts retrieved from reviews.

I personally love the CD. I won't listen to it very often though. It does not have songs on it that you listen to over and over again. Frankly, it is a depressing album. There are a number of covers in it, that arguably Cash makes his own. Hurt, originally done by Nine Inch Nails becomes another song entirely when Cash does it. Yet, like I said there are no feel-good songs here. Listener beware, you need to be in the right mood for this album. When you are though, its fantastic in an "end me now" kind of way.

Here are what some other reviewers said:

(retrieved from on 9/5/09)
By A Customer
First of all, I'm a Johnny Cash nut. So, I tend to be a little more critical than most people when it comes to reviewing his albums. His fourth album in the American series is by far the weakest. Although the title track is by easily one of the best Cash songs ever, the remainder of the album is evidence that Cash needs to ditch Rick Rubin and start writing his own songs. Has anyone noticed how every American album Cash puts out seems to have more covers than the previous one? Sure, some like "Rusty Cage" and "Personal Jesus" (which is featured on this album) work beautifully, but it seems that Rubin has gotten a litte too cover-happy these days. Cash's own tunes are always the best. This album is, however worth every cent, if only for the wonderful title track. For casual Cash fans, its best to buy one of the earlier American albums, or just buy one of the live prison albums.

(retrieved from on 9/5/09)
By Bram Janssen
I am the least capable person to review this album. This man had been writing and singing songs for forty years and all I'd heard of him was "Ring Of Fire". I knew the song. I did not know who sang it. It was all but another one of these inevitable songs on every compilation, and one of these songs every channel my parents loved so much would play. I never noticed. Today, I still know hardly more.

One late-summer evening as I was zapping through the music channels here in The Netherlands, my thumb froze over the remote. On the screen singing was, not the usual parade of lewd, crafted, playbacking little mouths seemingly right of production lines, not good capable singers only better than the rest because of management and advertisement skills; it was a man dressed in black, looking old as death, with a voice raw as a crow's. I did not know it was he, if it had mattered. It was Cash, singing "Hurt". I looked, listened but then more. It was so unspeakably sad, so unfathomably melancholic. How can I describe the emotions hearing that song? Haunted and moved don't seem adequate.

Enchantment. I was a youth with a passion for music: metal, symphonic, classic, techno. Give it to me, give it to me every day, all day long. I'll be satisfied. I was a youth, looking at an old man, singing for me, singing of his life and emotions. Music moves me always, but it was this music, barely more than a voice and an acoustic guitar, that drew a tear, dropped into my heart - then another and another. Silent, invisible tears filling hollows, and all that showed on the outside, were a sniff of the nose and a blink of the eyes. I was a youth.

Many of the songs on this final album, including "Hurt", are covers, even though some are his own. Cash here also covers Paul Simon, Hank Williams and John Lennon. Not all of his arrangements are better than the originals. Technically. But Cash performs with such feeling, such sway, such voice, that this is the most cherished music I've bought in a lifetime.

Then, as I sat there oblivious, and wishing I had seen the whole thing, the clip ended and I saw Cash's name. I turned off the set, stood, and hoped I would hear it again. Weeks later, Cash was dead. Today, I still know hardly more.

Now back to me.

I would recommend purchasing this album or any of the four other American Recordings albums. They show a good view of Johnny Cash in the last days of his long and difficult life.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Rocky Patel

Recently I read a mass email from my favorite cigar shop, Stogies on Grand, about a Rocky Patel event. I hadn't heard much of Rocky Patel cigars, but the man himself was going to be at Stogies promoting his line of cigars. Time and motivation kept me away from the event, but I found myself at the shop yesterday and decided to give a post-celebration salute to the cigars and try one.

I found myself of on the other end of a Renaissance. This cigar line has a dark wrapper leaf. I picked up a Coronas (typical sized cigar, round end, usually a little over 5" long and 40-50 ring size diameter).

This was a very smooth cigar. It had a cool smoke throughout and burned evenly. It was a bit difficult to get lit, but once it had a good burn it kept it up. My only disappointment was that it died out while I still had a good inch of "smokable" cigar left. I found that I had to smoke this cigar quicker than most to keep it going.

It was a strong cigar. Luckily I had eaten at Dixies just before and had about 50 pounds of BBQ meat sitting in my stomach to absorb everything. I would rate this cigar similarly to a Punch cigar, having more of the characteristics of a true Cuban.

On a side note, looks like we might be even closer to removing the tight restrictions of the trade embargo with Cuba. That would revitalize the cigar industry in America as we know it!

Happy Smoking!