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American Recordings (33⅓ #80)

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  74 ratings  ·  15 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 by 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
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 Toth proves in his detailed look at the man’s Amer...more
Jay Levon
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.
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...more
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
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...more
Patrick Book
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...more
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.
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.
Scott Baker
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.
Thomas D Sinex
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...
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
Great perspective on Johnny Cash in general using his first record done with Rick Rubin as the center of the book.
Great insight into Cashs history
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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...
Invisible Bride Complex Sleep World Jelly Johnny Cash's American Recordings (33 1/3) Here Comes Everybody: An Anthology

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