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American Recordings (33⅓ #80)

3.49  ·  Rating Details ·  121 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews

A superb investigation of what is arguably Johnny Cash's greatest album, focusing on his enduring mythology.

Kindle Edition
Published 2011 by Continuum
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More often than not contemporary music books (as in rock and roll, country, etc.) don’t work all that well for me. They can often be dry affairs, containing diligent cataloguings of recording sessions, band fights, drinking, sex and drugs. The music and its maker(s) are rarely captured. For the most part the magic of song and singer exists outside of any book. However, on occasion a book will come along that does capture that magic. Recently, I felt Keith Richards’ autobiography Life accomplishe ...more
John Hood
Jun 26, 2011 John Hood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bound: Double the Money

Two Looks Back at the Mythic Johnny Cash

John Hood / SunPost Weekly June 23, 2011

With few exceptions, mythbusters are a bore. I mean, why the hell would anyone wanna rid the world of something as sacred and special and colorful as myth? It is myth that helps us live in and through this world. And it is myth that becomes legend.

Of all America’s myths, Johnny Cash stands among the most mythic. And as Tony Tost proves in his detailed look at the man’s Amer
Jun 22, 2014 John rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I couldn't finish this short book. It's Crap. I have read other books in the series which provide a good background on the recording, the artist at that time, and the meaning of the songs. None of that is present here; just the author's invented mythology of Cash. Maybe I would have understood the "profundities" contained within if I had been stoned ...
Jeremy Huber
Jun 04, 2012 Jeremy Huber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a Cash junkie so I probably would have enjoyed it no matter what, but Tony Tost has put much style and heart into this little book. Much like his subject here, Mr. Tost is a mighty poet.
A must read for Cash fans, and a should read for anyone interested in songwriting, myths, and that old, weird America.
Dusty Henry
Books in the 33 1/3 series are often short - being part of the appeal. American Recordings is one of the longer entries in the series, but by no means a "long book" in the larger context of literature and criticism. However, it does feel like it drags on. This is not to say that it's "bad" by any means. It feels like it should be read in short bursts instead of in one sitting. It plays out like a collection of essays delving into/building up the myth of Johnny Cash.

Author Tony Tost makes it cle
Jan 24, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
This is another in the 33 1/3 series, this time covering Johnny Cash's American Recordings, the album that sparked his resurgence at the end of his career and life. A mix of new original material and covers of songs both traditional and written by others, American Recordings is an amazing album, and Tost does a great job of delving into its mysteries.
Tost centers his book on the myth of Johnny Cash, which Cash himself created, and looks at how each song on the album (as well as some that appear
Sep 27, 2013 Derek rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, pop-culture
The 33 1/3 series of books each analyze an album in its entirety and comment on its cultural and artistic significance - in this case, Washington poet Tony Tost plumbs the depths of Johnny Cash's 1994 American Recordings in regard to the place that Cash's late career resurgence has within establishing the legacy of the Cash mythos. Tost thoroughly examines each track, its history, and many of the themes and images that Cash developed throughout his career. Tost's essays are thoughtful, well-rese ...more
May 15, 2012 Mscout rated it did not like it
When I first started reading this, I thought to myself "This is the most overblown, self-possessed, conceited, smug, overwrought, pretentious piece of literary crap I have ever read." Now that I have finished it, I KNOW it is the most overblown, self-possessed, conceited, smug, overwrought, pretentious piece of literary crap I have ever read.

To wit:
In reference to the song "Let the Train Blow the Whistle", Tost wrote

"Perhaps the song even reveals where Cash believed the reckoning between God an
Patrick Book
Jan 13, 2013 Patrick Book rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-reads
The mythos of Johnny Cash and how it was restored/perverted by his late-in-life work with Rick Rubin is the central theme here. But poet Tony Tost also gets into the nitty-gritty of how we selectively perceive an artist's work and what that can tell us about ourself and our culture.

Typically people only remember two phases of Cash's career: the early-but-not-that-early prison recordings era and the Rubin-driven late-career stunt cover resurrection of the "American Recordings" series. Tost cuts
Jun 27, 2012 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book that is more than willing to be hagiographic about Cash, but also quick to tear into hagiography he cannot abide. Tost readily concedes that Cash made some weak albums in his long career and even the American series of albums has some poor choices in it. Still, he examines with rigor and poetry the songs on American Recordings and notes connections to songs picked for subsequent albums. He is respectful of Cash's efforts to mythologize himself and lends a hand where he can, but ...more
Corinna Bechko
Saying that the first few chapters are overblown might be saying something too kind. Once the book settles down and stops trying so hard, focusing on the individual songs instead of on the myth of Cash and by extension America, things improve. There are some interesting insights hidden in the middle, as well as a lot of context, but there is also a tendency to reach for questionable metaphors. Worth reading if you're a fan of the album though.
Scott Baker
May 13, 2012 Scott Baker rated it really liked it
Yes, this book reads as if it is a research paper and the author comes off highly pretentious as mentioned in earlier reviews. However, Tost did embed many jewels of information within the book mostly about the songs (their origins and histories) to make the book a worthwhile read - especially if your a fan of Cash's American Recordings projects.
Jun 28, 2011 Nathan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 33-1-3-series
Hmm...I liked the concept of the book, the idea of searching out the myth that is Johnny Cash. But, the approach took too much of a detailed look at the various allusions, which, although focusing through a microscope left the book to look a little scattered instead. However, I definitely appreciate the idea that the absence of Cash has left a void in the American folk landscape.
Jul 26, 2011 Cam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great insight into Cashs history
Thomas D Sinex
Apr 24, 2012 Thomas D Sinex rated it it was ok
Not great, the author seemed more interested in showing off his writing skills as oppossed to looking clearly at the subject. Reminded me of an undergraduate research paper...
Joe Faust
An interesting conceit: the album as a mythic biography (autobiography?) of the artist. Sometimes full of sound and fury, signifying nothing - but it's a very well-written sound and fury.
Apr 17, 2012 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Provided a portal deep inside a record I have long admired, but now know how to hear more deeply (and maybe love a little).
Stan Golanka
Jun 27, 2012 Stan Golanka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great perspective on Johnny Cash in general using his first record done with Rick Rubin as the center of the book.
August Bourré
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I'm the author of two full length poetry books, Complex Sleep (Iowa 2007: Kuhl House Poets series) and Invisible Bride (LSU 2004: Walt Whitman Award), and one chapbook, World Jelly (Effing 2005). I'm currently writing a prose book on Johnny Cash's first American Recordings album, which will be published by Continuum Books in their 33 1/3 series.
More about Tony Tost...

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