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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
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+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
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+ Cex - Actual Fucking
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+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
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+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
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+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
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+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
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Johnny Cash
American IV: When The Man Comes Around
Lost Highway

As Johnny Cash sings Nine Inch Nails' anti-drug revelation "Hurt," acoustic guitars rustle, ephemerally masking pain with a self-assured insouciance. When he utters the song's first line, "I hurt myself today/ To see if I still feel," Cash channels Trent Reznor's macabre delivery, replacing Reznor's anguish with wisdom and a grandfatherly perspective.

On his fourth collaboration with rock producer Rick Rubin (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, System of a Down), Cash has delivered yet another solid album of unexpected covers and novel takes on older original material. Cash might surprise with his choice of covers, but in nearly all of his selections, he locates some personal meaning, or introduces new emotional elements, as is the case with "Hurt."

"Hurt" is so striking because of its radical departure from its original version, a morose recording by Nine Inch Nails, a band far removed, at least musically, from anything Cash has recorded during his 50 or so years making records. Sure, we all know Cash is known as the Man in Black, but still... a Nine Inch Nails song? Cash — who probably dealt with more demons before Reznor was even born than the Nine Inch Nails leader will ever know — appropriates "Hurt." He owns it. Lines such as "You could have it all/ My empire of dirt/ I will lay you down/ I will make you hurt" are imbued with such finality as they're overtaken by guitar playing that grows fiercer with each line.

The unabashedly spiritual Cash puts an ecclesiastical sheen on Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," performing the originally new-wave song (the British group's first to feature a guitar) in such a way that one can't help but take the lyrics at face value. In Cash's version, the song becomes a jaunty acoustic number flecked with flinty slide guitar and kitschy, rolling piano. Cash adds weight to the refrain, which is repeated over and over: "Reach out and touch faith."

Spiritual matters occupy more time on the album, including the Cash-penned title track "When the Man Comes Around," a blatant messianic number. Another Cash original, "Give My Love to Rose," gains much from its new version, with its defeated narrator, an earnest loser who wishes to make amends with his wife and child. Cash's own hardened experience — conveyed in every word he sings — gives the song great resonance.

Several guest appearances, including Fiona Apple's lush harmonizing with Cash on the Simon and Garfunkel '70s classic "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and Nick Cave's accompaniment on Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," augment his performances. The duets work well on the album, balancing the songs sung only by Cash.

Occasionally a song choice misfires, in particular a stale retelling of "Danny Boy." Also, Cash's leathery voice is ill suited to the Beatles' "In My Life." Instead of sounding ruminative, the song sounds anemic, weary. And a cheesy ensemble take on "We'll Meet Again" would have best been left in the vaults. These are minor distractions, however. And the rest of American IV: When the Man Comes Around more than makes up for them.

by Brian Orloff

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