2:53- 3:00

24 Feb

American VI: Ain’t No Grave was released today, and it represents the last of the recording sessions of Johnny Cash and producer Rick Rubin. It is in parts graceful, funny, haunting and that terrible greeting-card phrase: life-affirming. There is a lean to morbidity here; the fact it comes now seven (seven!) years after Cash died gives us some level of distance, but there is still something odd about a posthumous album of new material. While there is a quaver in his voice, a weakness in notes that once would’ve blown the hats off lesser men not for a second does he sound weak- it is a testament to his ability to draw listeners in that even the most hardened of Atheists could believe, just for a moment, that somebody up there likes them.

Something happened when I tried to listen to the last track. It’s a cover of Aloha Oe, a ballad written by Liliʻuokalani, the last and only Queen of Hawaii. It’s a sweet, playful interpretation that also serves as a ‘goodbye for now’, rather than the more serious closer of We’ll Meet Again On American Recordings V. I felt a pang of regret as I pressed play, knowing that this would be the end, and while there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of tracks I hadn’t heard Aloha Oe was the last, and after it there would be no more.  The music faded out at 2:53, and without thinking I paused the track. All I had left were 7 seconds of silence, and I didn’t want them to be gone. I left it there for an hour, debating with myself over whether to listen. How ridiculous, I thought, to be concerned about 7 measly seconds of no music- but the feeling was there.

So I turned up my speakers as loud as they would go, leaned forward, closed my eyes and pushed play. And in that 7 seconds I could feel the room he was in. We, all of us, were there together. And I swear now as I will forever that somewhere in between 2:53 and 3:00 I heard the air displaced around a wry smile, and a nod that said “Thank you, I’m done”.

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