(This is my 100th review of a CD that's available from the Pratt Library in Baltimore. It's kind of fitting, then, that this review relates back to my first visit to Charm City.)
I still remember the first book I bought in Baltimore. It was a sunny summer afternoon in 2000, and we were waiting for an Orioles game to start at Camden Yards. We had a few hours, so we wandered over to the Inner Harbor. Of course, I didn't know the difference between the Pratt Library and Pratt Street at the time, but I was immediately smitten by the gentrified charms of the Barnes & Noble that sits in an old power plant on the water. I walked up to the second floor and, as light streamed in one of the giant windows, I saw a book titled Japanese Death Poems, which happened to be a collection of farewell poems written by ancient Japanese monks just before they died.
A Hundred Highways is Johnny Cash's death poem. It would be hard to imagine a better farewell from one of modern music's greatest artists.
This probably wouldn't get a five-library-card rating if it hadn't been Johnny Cash's last record, but it's a perfect way to close the circle of his musical career. Interestingly (and fittingly), this is the only album in the American series that is almost entirely rooted in country. Yeah, there's a Springsteen song on there, but Cash and producer Rick Rubin had the wisdom to see that "Further on Up the Road" is actually a mighty fine country song at its core. A few of the songs kind of fade into the background, but there's not a bad moment on the album.
The cover contains a photo of Johnny Cash singing. Otherwise, the liner notes are black, and contain only credits and a powerful eulogy by Rick Rubin.
Listen if you like: life, love, and/or death
If it were food, it'd be: A last meal