American - 2002 - 51 minutes

Poignancy and defiance, two moods Cash has made his own over five decades and which cut straight to the bone on these 15 lessons about life and its flipside.

With his ill health, it may have seemed like he would take a break after 2000's 'Solitary Man' but reunited with producer Rick Rubin, he sets off on more new, unexpected and traditional routes. The voice may falter but the spirit powering it shines through every time and again, it's the left field choices, which prove the most memorable.

His takes on Nine Inch Nails' 'Hurt' and Depeche Mode's 'Personal Jesus' rank among his best - as does the apocalyptic title track, a song which Cash says he spent longer working on than any other in his career. The exhalation in his delivery leaves you aching as you move through 'American IV' but dealing with a force of nature like Cash, who's to say Volume V won't happen?

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: The Man Comes Around - Hurt - Give My Love to Rose - Bridge Over Troubled Water - I Hung My Head - The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face - Personal Jesus - In My Life - Sam Hall - Danny Boy - Desperado - I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry - Tear Stained Letter - Streets of Laredo - We'll Meet Again