"Solitary Man" seems literal: Cash's gravelly voice, weathered by age and illness, resonates as true as it did back in 1956 when "I Walk the Line" burned, burned, burned into the hearts of Americans. And it's as if Cash speaks straight to us when he sings "I Won't Back Down" and "One." Then he reminds us that we can be strong and mortal and great and ready to move on with dignity when he sings, "Roll Around Heaven All Day." "Nobody" resonates with loneliness and mishap, while the album's closer, a souped-up arrangement of the traditional Appalachian ballad, "Wayfaring Stranger," conveys a deep despondence.
In case his previous recordings didn't say it directly enough, American III: Solitary Man tells us exactly, finally and frankly what it means to be Johnny Cash: It's a solemn and brilliant farewell from the original Man in Black.