Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Ain't No Grave"

Sean Curnyn reviews for First Things the most recently released of Johnny Cash's "American Recordings," American VI: Ain't No Grave:
As goes Scripture, so goes country music: The great lines are reused forever. Just listen to the final song that Johnny Cash composed, titled “I Corinthians 15:55,” and the refrain, which goes like this:
Oh death, where is thy sting?
Oh grave, where is thy victory?
Oh life, you are a shining path
And hope springs eternal just over the rise
When I see my Redeemer beckoning me
The first two lines are the ones cited in the title, from St. Paul, but Paul in his turn was quoting Hosea 13:14 in that particular passage. Cash would have known well that he was invoking both the Old and New Testaments there, and the resonance of a promise that doesn’t fade. ....
That song by itself, Curnyn says, makes the album worth buying, even though some other tracks are weaker. He concludes the review:
I only recently saw the 1972 film that Johnny and June made called The Gospel Road, a story of Jesus Christ utilizing both music and actors. To my chagrin, I found it almost unwatchable; to me (even as a believer) it was excessively didactic and awkward. But no such weaknesses accompany the way Cash puts over a song of faith, whether “Ain’t No Grave” here or his rollicking version of “The Old Account” from back in 1959. His sound has always been that of a man aching for his Redeemer, desperately in need of that redemption, and at the same time filled with joy at the softest touch from above, already received. And there surely ain’t no grave gonna hold his body down. [more]
Sean Curnyn is the blogger at, one of my favorite blogs, combining as it does my religious, political and musical enthusiasms.

Johnny Cash: One More Time | First Things

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