I first heard The Man Comes Around d in the car of a friend in Amsterdam and it really struck me. There’s something deep and haunting about it, and while some of the arrangements are a little sappy for my tastes (particularly on Bridge over Troubled Water), the power of Johnny Cash’s voice and the dark feel of a man’s testament in music is overwhelming and wipes out these little imperfections.
The opener, The Man Comes Around really sets the tone for the whole record. It’s deep, it’s driven, the religious theme is really a metaphor for life and death themes, presumably something that was close to Cash’s thoughts when the record was made. After having heard this album I started digging for some earlier Cash, and there’s a lot there that’s worth hearing, but his voice on The Man Comes Around has a depth and texture that is simply impossible not to touch you deep.
The arrangements (with the exception above) tend to be sparse and that’s just what the music needs. Songs like Give My Love to Rose or the heart-wrenching Hang my Head have little more than an acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment, and it’s just what’s needed. The selection of song is both varied and consistent. Even the pop covers of Bridge over Troubled Water and Personal Jesus work. They sound personal, they don’t sound like covers.
I can’t tell you that you should get this Johnny Cash record over others, because I don’t know the rest of his discography well enough. But I can tell you that this is a hell of a record, although probably not one to listen to when you’re feeling down. Very powerful stuff…