After a slow period during the 1980s, Johnny Cash would see rejuvenation in his career when he signed with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings label, despite the fact the two were from two different musical worlds. In April 1994, he would release the album that bore the same name as Rubin’s label.
With Rubin at the helm, Cash recorded the album in the producer’s living room, accompanied only by his guitar. Thus, it would give the album a more minimalist sound. Some of the key tracks on American Recordings included the opener “Delia’s Gone” (in which the Anton Corbijn video was in heavy rotation on MTV), covers of Kris Kristofferson’s “Why My Lord” and Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire” and “Thirteen” (written by Glenn Danzig).
American Recordings peaked in the top thirty on the country albums charts, and number 110 on the Billboard 200. But the chart performance was far outshined by the critical acclaim, as it was praised by critics and won Cash a Grammy for Contemporary Folk Album. The album was ranked number 366 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of all Time, and will kick off the American series that would include 1996’s Unchained and American IV: The Man Comes Around.