American Recordings (album)

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American Recordings
Studio album by Johnny Cash
Released April 26, 1994
Genre Folk, country
Length 42:45
Label American, Sony
Producer Rick Rubin
Johnny Cash chronology
Wanted Man
(1994)Wanted Man1994
American Recordings
The Man in Black 1963–1969
(1995)The Man in Black 1963–19691995
American series chronology
American Recordings
(1994) American Recordings1994
(1996) Unchained1996

American Recordings is the 81st album by the country singer Johnny Cash. It was released in April 1994 by the American Recordings label, after it had changed its name from Def American.

The album marked the beginning of a career resurgence for Cash, who was widely recognized as an icon of American music but whose record sales had suffered since the 1980s.


Cash was approached by producer Rick Rubin and offered a contract with Rubin's American Recordings label, better known for rap and heavy metal than for country music. Under Rubin's supervision, he recorded the album in his living room, accompanied only by his guitar. For years Cash had often been at odds with his producers after he had discovered with his first producer, Sam Phillips, that his voice was better suited to a stripped-down musical style. Most famously he disagreed with Jack Clement over his sound, Clement having tried to give Cash's songs a "twangy" feel and to add strings and barbershop-quartet-style singers, and his successful collaboration with Rick Rubin was in part due to Rubin seeking a minimalist sound for his songs.[citation needed]

The songs "Tennessee Stud" and "The Man Who Couldn't Cry" were recorded live at the Viper Room, a Sunset Strip, Los Angeles nightclub owned at the time by Johnny Depp. "The Beast in Me" was written and originally recorded by Cash's former stepson-in-law Nick Lowe.[1] Glenn Danzig wrote "Thirteen" specifically for Cash in less than twenty minutes.[2] The album cover was photographed while Cash was visiting Australia, at Werribee near Melbourne.[3]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[4]
Chicago Tribune 4/4 stars[5]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[6]
Entertainment Weekly A[7]
Los Angeles Times 4/4 stars[8]
MusicHound Country 5/5[6]
NME 9/10[9]
Q 4/5 stars[10]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars[11]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[6]

American Recordings was released on April 26, 1994, to widespread acclaim from critics.[12] Q magazine deemed it the year's most sincere and ambitious record,[10] while NME found it "uplifting and life affirming because the message is taught through adversity, ill luck and fighting for survival".[9] David Browne, writing in Entertainment Weekly, said Cash remained a captivating singer throughout the austerely arranged country ballads and bizarre reflections, calling the record "his most relaxed and folkiest album in three decades".[7] In a rave review for Rolling Stone, Anthony DeCurtis hailed it as one of Cash's greatest albums because of his self-possessed, "biblically intense" take on traditional folk songs and Rubin's no-frills production: "American Recordings is at once monumental and viscerally intimate, fiercely true to the legend of Johnny Cash and entirely contemporary."[11] Mark Cooper from Mojo called it a "breathtaking blend of the confessional and the self-mythologising".[12] In the Chicago Tribune, Greg Kot wrote that Cash's singing was effectively dramatic throughout "the quagmire of humor and bloodshed, pathos and treachery evoked by these songs",[5] while Los Angeles Times critic Randy Lewis said they "peer into the dark corners of the American soul" on what was a "milestone work" for Cash.[8]

In a negative review for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau felt American Recordings had been overhyped by antisocial sycophants and lacked the vital shuffle beat of Cash's best music, citing "Delia's Gone" and perhaps "Thirteen" as "the only time words and voice combine with the undeniable seniority his claque claims to hear everywhere".[13] In retrospect, AllMusic's Mark Deming wrote that the album "became a critical sensation and a commercial success, though it was overrated in some quarters simply because it reminded audiences that one of America's greatest musical talents was still capable of making compelling music, something he had never stopped doing even if no one bothered to listen."[4]

At the end of 1994, American Recordings was voted the seventh best album of the year in the Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of American critics nationwide.[14] In other year-end lists, it was ranked 36th by Select, 23rd by NME, 19th by Rockdelux, 17th by Les Inrockuptibles, 15th by The Face, 5th by the Los Angeles Times, 4th by Mojo, and 2nd by OOR.[6] At the 1995 Grammy Awards, it won Cash a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.[12] Rolling Stone later placed the record at number 366 on the magazine's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list.[15]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Delia's Gone" Johnny Cash, Karl Silbersdorf, Dick Toops 2:18
2. "Let the Train Blow the Whistle" Johnny Cash 2:15
3. "The Beast in Me" Nick Lowe 2:45
4. "Drive On" Johnny Cash 2:23
5. "Why Me Lord" Kris Kristofferson 2:20
6. "Thirteen [edit]" Glenn Danzig 2:29
7. "Oh, Bury Me Not" (Introduction: "A Cowboy's Prayer") John Lomax, Alan Lomax, Roy Rogers, Tim Spencer 3:52
8. "Bird on a Wire" Leonard Cohen 4:01
9. "Tennessee Stud" (live at The Viper Room, West Hollywood, 3 December 1993) Jimmy Driftwood 2:54
10. "Down There by the Train" Tom Waits 5:34
11. "Redemption" Johnny Cash 3:03
12. "Like a Soldier" Johnny Cash 2:50
13. "The Man Who Couldn't Cry" (live at The Viper Room, West Hollywood, 3 December 1993) Loudon Wainwright III 5:03


  • Rick Rubin – producer
  • Johnny Cash – acoustic guitar, vocals, main performer, liner notes
  • Jim Scott – mixing
  • David Ferguson – sound recordist
  • Stephen Marcussen – mastering
  • Christine Cano – design
  • Martyn Atkins – art director, photographer


Chart (1994) Peak
U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums 23
U.S. Billboard 200 110
Canadian RPM Country Albums 9
Canadian RPM Top Albums 72


  1. ^ "The Beast In Me". Song facts. Archived from the original on 18 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  2. ^ "Glenn Danzig" (interview). DK: Futher mocker. 
  3. ^ Presenters: Glenn Ridge (2011-06-19). Weekends with Glenn Ridge. Melbourne, Australia. 97:10 minutes in. MTR. 
  4. ^ a b Deming, Mark. "American Recordings". AllMusic. Retrieved October 9, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Kot, Greg (April 28, 1994). "The Master". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 9, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d "American Recordings". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved October 9, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Browne, David (April 29, 1994). "American Recordings". Entertainment Weekly. New York. Retrieved October 9, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Lewis, Randy (April 25, 1994). "Album Review : A Walk on the Dark Side (****) : JOHNNY CASH; "American Recordings" ( American )". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 9, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b NME. London: 46. October 8, 1994. 
  10. ^ a b Q. London: 117. September 1994. 
  11. ^ a b Rolling Stone. New York: 97. May 19, 1994. 
  12. ^ a b c Thomson, Graeme (2011). "You Remembered Me". The Resurrection of Johnny Cash: Hurt, Redemption and American Recordings. Jawbone Press. p. 181. ISBN 1906002363. Retrieved October 9, 2015. 
  13. ^ Christgau, Robert (June 14, 1994). "Virtue Unrewarded". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved October 9, 2015. 
  14. ^ "The 1994 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved October 9, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Johnny Cash". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved October 9, 2015. 

External links[edit]