Producer Rick Rubin has announced the release of a posthumous Johnny Cash album following the country singer's death in September 2003. American V: A Hundred Highways, the final instalment in the American series, will be released on July 3rd on the American Recordings label. Like the preceding albums, American V will be mostly comprised of cover versions, but will also feature two originals, I Came to Believe and Like the 309 – the last song Cash ever wrote. Both songs revisit ground familiar to lovers of the singer's back catalogue; Like the 309 is a meditation on the role of train travel in Cash's life, while I Came to Believe explores the themes of sin and redemption. Among the covers on the album are songs by Bruce Springsteen, Rod McKuen and Hank Williams, along with God's Gonna Cut You Down, a traditional spiritual.
Although Cash died before the backing tracks could be recorded – they were eventually set down by his long-time engineer David “Fergie” Ferguson, with a team of musicians familiar from other albums in the American series – Rubin is convinced that the final album is faithful to Cash's vision for what the singer knew would be his epitaph.
“I think that this is as strong an album as Johnny ever made,” says Rubin. “We felt Johnny's presence during the whole process through to the end. It felt like he was directing the proceedings, and I know that the musicians all felt that as well.”
“These songs are Johnny's final statement. They are the truest reflection of the music that was central to his life at the time. This is the music that Johnny wanted us to hear.”