I became a Johnny Cash fan in college. His Live at San Quentin CD was a regular on a hallmate’s stereo, and over the next few years, I came to appreciate the Man in Black’s musical simplicity and personal complexity.
In the decade before his death, he worked with Rick Rubin to record a series of albums. The American Recordings produced six albums (so far) with the first appearing in 1994 and the sixth appearing in 2010. Apparently, more is coming.
A lot of the tracks are re-workings of songs by other artists–some more classic, some more contemporary. There are several standouts among the recordings that are best described, I think, as haunting. His renditions of Hurt, God’s Gonna Cut You Down, Ain’t No Grave, and Personal Jesus make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
These recordings are worth a listen or several. I’ll leave you with an interesting comparison. First, watch the video for Nickelback’s “Rockstar”:
Now, watch the video for Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.”
Compare and contrast. There’s probably a dissertation to be written there.
For more info, here are the Wikipedia pages on each of the American Recordings Albums: