In the past few months I've been intensively listening to Johnny Cash's American Recordings and the Unearthed box set. I always appreciated his style and his attitude, although I've never been a fan of him and country music in general.
The atmosphere on the American Recordings is very pure, dark, simple, sober. The instrumentation is minimal, but the recordings are absolutely not under-produced. In my opinion it’s some of Rick Rubin’s best work. Cash sounds very emotional, vulnerable. Especially on his last album, Ain’t No Grave, you can hear the voice of a breakable man, a man who knows he doesn’t live much longer. I can’t listen to it without getting goose bumps all over my body and without thinking about the impermanence of life.
The American Recordings contain some great re-recordings of his own songs from the ‘50’s, 60’s and ‘70’s. His own ‘recent’ compositions, like The Man Comes Around, Delia's Gone and I Corinthians 15:55 are some of his very best.
The recordings contain an enormous amount of great cover versions. I listened to all of the original versions and in my opinion Cash’s versions are almost always better than the originals. I love his versions of The Mercy Seat (Nick Cave), Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel), The First Time Ever I Saw You Face (Roberta Flack), If You Could Read My Mind (Gordon Lightfoot), Redemption Day (Sheryl Crow) and Pocahontas (Neil Young).
My absolute favorite of all his songs is Hurt, originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails. The first time I heard it, I didn’t recognize it as one of NIN’s songs.
I don’t think any Queen song would suit to be recorded by Cash. But since Sound Garden’s Rusty Cage is on it, any imaginable song could have been covered by Cash as well. ;)