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Johnny Cash — The Mercy Seat
Album: American III
Avg rating:
7.8

Your rating:
Total ratings: 1875









Released: 2000
Length: 4:32
Plays (last 30 days): 1
It ALL began when they come took me from my home
And put me on Death Row,
A crime for which I am totally innocent, you know.

I began to warm and chill
To objects and their fields,
A ragged cup, a twisted mop
The face of Jesus in my soup
Those sinister dinner deals
The meal trolley's wicked wheels
A hooked bone rising from my food
All things either good or ungood.

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this weighing of the truth.
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And anyway I told the truth
And I'm not afraid to die.

I hear stories from the chamber
Christ was born into a manger
And like some ragged stranger
He died upon the cross
Might I say, it seems so fitting in its way
He was a carpenter by trade
Or at least that's what I'm told

My kill-hand's
Tatooed E.V.I.L. across it's brother's fist
That filthy five! They did nothing to challenge or resist.

In Heaven His throne is made of gold
The ark of his Testament is stowed
A throne from which I'm told
All history does unfold.
It's made of wood and wire
And my body is on fire
And God is never far away.

Into the mercy seat I climb
My head is shaved, my head is wired
And like a moth that tries
To enter the bright eye
I go shuffling out of life
Just to hide in death awhile
And anyway I never lied.

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this weighing of the truth.
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And anyway I told the truth
And I'm not afraid to die.

And the mercy seat is burning
And I think my head is glowing
And in a way I'm hoping
To be done with all this twisting of the truth.
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And anyway there was no proof
And I'm not afraid to die.

And the mercy seat is glowing
And I think my head is smoking
And in a way I'm hoping
To be done with all these looks of disbelief.
A life for a life
And a truth for a truth
And I've got nothing left to lose
And I'm not afraid to die.

And the mercy seat is smoking
And I think my head is melting
And in a way that's helping
To be done with all this twisting of the truth
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And anyway I told the truth
But I'm afraid I told a lie.
Comments (198)add comment
 cc_rider wrote:
Have you heard his take on NIN's 'Hurt'?
c.



It's reported that Reznor didn't think much of Cash's cover of "Hurt" at first.  Then he saw the video and said,  “That song isn’t mine any more.”
 maxvonevil wrote:

Holy crap, this is dark..

Have you heard his take on NIN's 'Hurt'?
c.

Holy crap, this is dark..
 mdnlsn wrote:
I think I'm in the minority here, but I've haven't enjoyed most if  JC's "adventurous" covers in the later part of his career. There was so much good stuff on those last four albums that is overlooked by these square peg/round hole tracks. Songs like Streets of Laredo and Tear Stained Letter are such a good fit for him and have so much groove. I appreciate the artist's need to stretch, but sometimes it's a stretch. 
 

I appreciate your sentiment, and you must be an avid JC fan.  I found an interesting pod cast by Malcolm Gladwell, where he interviews Rick Ruben who produced the JC cover albums.  Rick sought him out to work with him.  Prior to those more recent cover albums JC's Career had declined and fallen in to obscurity.  According to the interview, Rick met him for the first time after a hotel lounge gig in Orange County CA, and he described it as "sad."  While the covers may not be for you, you should at least appreciate that the album brought awareness of JC to a whole new generation of listeners.  I knew some Johnny Cash before these albums were released, but I really dug deeper in to his catalog after.
 adpucci wrote:

1. it's called poetry
2. it's a Nick Cave cover, anyway. 
 
And, for whatever reason, both Cave and Cash seem to like biblical allusions. 
I think I'm in the minority here, but I've haven't enjoyed most if  JC's "adventurous" covers in the later part of his career. There was so much good stuff on those last four albums that is overlooked by these square peg/round hole tracks. Songs like Streets of Laredo and Tear Stained Letter are such a good fit for him and have so much groove. I appreciate the artist's need to stretch, but sometimes it's a stretch. 
One the greatest songs of all time.
Johnny covering Nick Cave. I don't think it could possibly get any better than this!
only one Johnny
Still a 9 to me, that banging piano coupled with Mr. Cash just kicks ass...LLRP!!
There's some interesting discussion about this on the Broken Record podcast. Worth a listen.
I have never heard Johnny Cash perform a cover that didn't exceed the original.  He helps songs discover what they were meant to be.
'(Nick) Cave commented on Cash's cover in a number of interviews: "Like all the songs he does, he made it his own. He's a great interpreter of songs – that's part of his genius. These are the things that can't be taken away from you."[10] He called it a personal highpoint: "'It doesn't matter what anyone says,' remarked Cave proudly. 'Johnny Cash recorded my song.'"[11]'

— Wikipedia - The Mercy Seat (song) - Notable covers and references - Johnny Cash, American Recordings III
Although Cage’s song, Cash has more soul and pain informing this song.
Great song. Nick Cave's version is far superior but this is still powerful and a great listen. The lyrics carry it clearly.
Powerful. Great song, even though I'm not a fan of Johnny Cash.
This should be followed by PG's Mercy Street.  Or is that too on the nose?
 
{#Dance}
Worst.Cash.Ever.  A solid 1.  {#Arrowd}
Icon. Nothing less.
 Highlowsel wrote:
Cash had some interesting song forays in his final years on this planet.  This one causes me to pause and reflect on how, exactly, I will face my own end.  I've got to figure, given when this was first released, that he could see his a'comin' like an on-rushing train.  Go in peace Mr. Cash (died Sept 12, 2003), you ran far and made quite a statement while you were here.  Hold a seat for me on that train....

Highlow
American Net'Zen

 
Nice sentiment and words for the Man in Black... Here Here!
Excuse me I must go into the closet and hang myself.
Still a 10
Never much dug this late Cash Rick Rubin stuff after his voice had gone. Yeah, sure, it was a "new generation" discovering Johnny, a performer who'd been doin it for 40 years, but we always preferred Johnny jus bein Johnny. Bob Dylan's much earlier
collaborations never attempted to change that.
I absolutely love all of Cash's final albums with Rick Ruben, but this song just doesn't do it for me like some of the others.  His duet with Fiona Apple on Bridge over Troubled Water might be my favorite.
 kcar wrote:

I stop everything when this comes on. 

 
Me too. Gives me chills.
 hanssachs wrote:
Relentless ...

 
I stop everything when this comes on. 
i´m here to bring life.
Sweet
fire.
Relentless ...
Great cover by Johnny of a great song from Nick. Video here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahr4KFl79WI
Well I guess I just prefer Nick Cave's original version.
Cash walked the line
as good as he could
till the end


Yes!! {#Music}

                                                                      
                                                                        Afraid's no lie
                                                                   Alivenue cuts across
                                                                        Mercy street.
Cash definitely went weird in his latter days, but through it reached an artistic zenith.  Go figure.
Cash had some interesting song forays in his final years on this planet.  This one causes me to pause and reflect on how, exactly, I will face my own end.  I've got to figure, given when this was first released, that he could see his a'comin' like an on-rushing train.  Go in peace Mr. Cash (died Sept 12, 2003), you ran far and made quite a statement while you were here.  Hold a seat for me on that train....

Highlow
American Net'Zen
 AlanF wrote:
Lay off the Johnny please - what is it about this pseudo-intellectual, archaic bible-quoting attempt at poetry that makes it get such repeats on RP?  Tiresome - the biggest PSD pusher on RP I am sure.

 
Oh, I get it.  The 7.9 average rating is what made you realize how many people hate it like you do!  Not everyone would have seen that.
odd, subtle and awesome in a weird positive mix
 AlanF wrote:
Lay off the Johnny please - what is it about this pseudo-intellectual, archaic bible-quoting attempt at poetry that makes it get such repeats on RP?  Tiresome - the biggest PSD pusher on RP I am sure.

 
1. it's called poetry
2. it's a Nick Cave cover, anyway. 
I'm not a big fan of Nick Cave's original. The lyrics just get lost in that version, and I never had the chance to internalize what was actually going on. Cash's version has a great cadence and power from his voice, but the rest of the music doesn't quite fit with his lyrical delivery... Not sure where this leaves me, but the lyrics are well-written no matter how you slice it.
Lay off the Johnny please - what is it about this pseudo-intellectual, archaic bible-quoting attempt at poetry that makes it get such repeats on RP?  Tiresome - the biggest PSD pusher on RP I am sure.
Is this like the thorntree in the whirlwind?   
Powerful song. Hard to listen to, but in a good way. 
A worthy song on such a weighty thing that has fascinated consciousnesses from Dostoyevsky to Cave and Cash and countless others
Some great covers on these last recordings of his especially Hurt but this one is not a patch on the original.  When it comes to this track give me Nick or give me nothing!
We went to the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville last week. That was really cool. I highly recommend it.
Johnny Cash. Enough said. 10.
I think some of Cash's American recordings may be a tad overrated due to trendiness, but as a long time fan of his entire body of work, I'll say this is up there with his best interpretations.

Nobody ever has been able to relate so much to so many people of all walks of life as Johnny Cash, perhaps.  He speaks and people get it!  An amazing artist!
 jedley wrote:
Pure garbage = Johnny cashing in on his rep to force shitty music and evangelical nonsense on unthinking hipsters who think it's cool to like it. If anyone else tried to sell this crap to a record company they wouldn't get past the secretary's secretary. {#Stop}
 

You're entitled to your opinion, but I couldn't disagree with you more. Go read the lyrics

https://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/the-mercy-seat-lyrics-johnny-cash/916c86d503643b2448256db800311b74

and try to understand that the song is telling the story of a man coming to grips with his impending death and admitting his crime at the final moment. The movie "Dead Man Walking" told the same story, but had more time to show how murder destroys so many lives. 

"Evangelical nonsense"? If you had to sit in a cell with nothing to do but think about getting strapped into an electric chair and getting fried, you might turn to God as well.

Nick Cave wrote and first performed "The Mercy Seat" but Johnny owns it.  So I guess Nick got it past the secretary's secretary after all. 
I am not certain which of Cash's final recordings I like better, this or his version of the Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt."

The man has got something to say... I like that...even if I do not share his religion.   Beats most of the senseless crap that calls itself music out there!
this "hipster" (can't help it, my parents were hippies) genuinely adores this man's voice and his phrasing. he may be milking the "cry" in his voice some; but i hear his pain, his life being transmitted through that voice.
 jedley wrote:
Pure garbage = Johnny cashing in on his rep to force shitty music and evangelical nonsense on unthinking hipsters who think it's cool to like it. If anyone else tried to sell this crap to a record company they wouldn't get past the secretary's secretary. 
 
I have to agree.
Great song! Amazing how his last few albums were his best!{#Clap}

Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Eric Clapton - "Matchbox" Live (1990)

"Clapton seems very nervous, but everyone would be when playing with these legends"

"I saw this for the first time too on Fri night. It 's the most fantastic thing I've seen for ages. Also check out the Dylan/Cash stuff. Made the hair on my neck stand up."


Joni Mitchell - "Both Sides Now" Live

"in The Johnny Cash Show"

Spine chilling.
The whole American series will be regarded as essential listening for decades to come.
Brilliant!

Powerful cover of a powerful song.

9/10 from me.
Its good like so many of his covers but he lacks the passion of Cave to make this one work.  That said his versions of Personal Jesus and Hurt are better than the originals.
 jedley wrote:
Pure garbage = Johnny cashing in on his rep to force shitty music and evangelical nonsense on unthinking hipsters who think it's cool to like it. If anyone else tried to sell this crap to a record company they wouldn't get past the secretary's secretary. {#Stop}
 
Rick Rubin must've thought it good enough - he put out 5 CDs on his label with Mr. Cash at the helm.  I think Rick produced them also.

If you ever watched Walk the Line, or read anything about Johnny Cash, he was a deeply spiritial person.  June and Johnny were both very religious and those undertones spoke throughout most of his music.  He fought with it his whole life.  So for him, in his much later years, to put out an album that is deeply personal to him, it would be a very spiritial (religious if you prefer).  Even when he covered "Hurt" this looked at his life and where he came and the regret he had.  It may not have been religious, but it was true to who he was.  Dont mock Johnny's music, he never followed what his producers wanted, thats what made him famous!!  This song is awesome!
 TravelRat wrote:

LOL, yep, I gotta agree with you here, Kiwi comrade...  I appreciate the attempt, but it didn't really work...{#Doh}{#Eek}  The only other version I've heard that topped the original was Nick's own acoustic version...

 

I guess I'm more of a Cash fan than a Cave fan. Regardless of who wrote it, I think Johnny makes it his own and adds a note of legitimacy to it.

 lawman wrote:
Is this about the electric chair?
 
No, it's about the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Nazis open the ark. {#Cheesygrin}

 lawman wrote:
Is this about the electric chair?
 

uhh, yeah
jedley wrote:
Pure garbage = Johnny cashing in on his rep to force shitty music and evangelical nonsense on unthinking hipsters who think it's cool to like it. If anyone else tried to sell this crap to a record company they wouldn't get past the secretary's secretary. {#Stop}


*cough*

uh read the comments below yours dude.
 ercasul wrote:

Specially not after he hears what a bloody mess Johnny Cash made of it.
 
Yeah, Cave must have hated Cash so hard for doing this that he tributed a song to him after his death. Oh wait...

Is this about the electric chair?
Pure garbage = Johnny cashing in on his rep to force shitty music and evangelical nonsense on unthinking hipsters who think it's cool to like it. If anyone else tried to sell this crap to a record company they wouldn't get past the secretary's secretary. {#Stop}
 ercasul wrote:

Specially not after he hears what a bloody mess Johnny Cash made of it.
 
LOL, yep, I gotta agree with you here, Kiwi comrade...  I appreciate the attempt, but it didn't really work...{#Doh}{#Eek}  The only other version I've heard that topped the original was Nick's own acoustic version...

 nevar23 wrote:
No one else should ever even try to remake this one. I doubt Nick would allow it anyway.
 
Specially not after he hears what a bloody mess Johnny Cash made of it.
EDIT - actually the piano at the end makes it a bit better.   Maybe he should have left it as a piano instrumental, then I'd be able to give this version more than 4 (up from 2,. so that piano's done well).   It is just pathetically weak against Nick Cave's version, which throbbed with menace - this one whimpers.
 eastcoast wrote:
I have a hard time enjoying Johnny Cash's later material in particularily this album.
 

Same here. must be all the religious BS
 hippiechick wrote:
Sorry, can't stand this
 

Agreed. I like the early JC. JC with Dylan etc. But this religious crap's just got to be buried. Check this out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84ortTXTKXM&feature=related
...'his song'? - c'mon bill, give nick cave his due...

 almafi wrote:
This is a really intense song.  The religious imagery is a bit unnerving.
 
It is intended to be for some.


This is a really intense song.  The religious imagery is a bit unnerving.
 hippiechick wrote:
Sorry, can't stand this
 
I can understand that.  I wasn't sure about this the first time or two I heard it but it's grown on me.  8.

Now, I hope Bill follows this up with about 45 minutes of very average crap that I'm not compelled to read the comments on.  I need to get some work done {#Wink}
No one else should ever even try to remake this one. I doubt Nick would allow it anyway.

All hail Johnny and let the bells ring.
Sorry, can't stand this
jc is greatness, legend, forever..........
Great lyrics, classic artist, The rest???
Wow, I have never heard this before. Breathtaking, heartbreaking. Genius. Thanks for playing this gem.
the piano at the end is great... emotion, yet simple... bashing out chords like a drunken madman...
damn! powerful stuff.
Awesome song, awesome performance too. A 9 overall.
petercroob wrote:
That's part of the Genius of Johnny Cash, while he wrote much of his own music many of his songs were renditions of songs written by other people. He made everysong his own and did a great service to many artists, as a Cash fan I have been introduced to so many fantastic songwriters thanks to The Man in Black. God Bless Johnny Cash.
Add to the list John Hartford and Willy Nelson.
The awesome John Cash.
Truly stunning song-writing. Does anybody know if that is Nick playing the piano? Kinda sounds like his rather inelegant but none-the-less powerful style. Cash and co. really did a great job picking the covers for this whole series of albums. I hear Hurt on commercial radio sometimes, and don't get me wrong... that is a great song, but thanks Bill for playing this one. An absolute masterpiece.
I can never tire of hearing Mr Cash. He makes every cover he did his own.Sadly missed. 9/10
No matter which of the three versions I've heard of this song, the power is undeniable.
2:24 pm - Johnny Cash - The Mercy Seat 2:19 pm - Frank Black and the Catholics - St Francis Dam Disaster 2:16 pm - The Doors - Maggie M'Gill What a ridiculously good series of transitions that was.
ManchesterUK wrote:
Listening to this track makes me feel.....Sad :cry:
Funny, that.
mandolin wrote:
...such a great fit for johnny cash, but really is anyone be surprised to learn that it comes from the pen of nick cave?..
That's part of the Genius of Johnny Cash, while he wrote much of his own music many of his songs were renditions of songs written by other people. He made everysong his own and did a great service to many artists, as a Cash fan I have been introduced to so many fantastic songwriters thanks to The Man in Black. God Bless Johnny Cash.
If you like johnny cash check out Murder by Death, not exactly like johnny but along tthe same vein.
His voice was meant to be heard..A gifted singer-performer
Not too many voices can make me tear up like Johnny's does. Out of nowhere.
mandolin wrote:
...such a great fit for johnny cash, but really is anyone be surprised to learn that it comes from the pen of nick cave?..
So true, that's genius of the American Recordings era Johnny Cash. :music:
...such a great fit for johnny cash, but really is anyone be surprised to learn that it comes from the pen of nick cave?..
Simply superb! Integrity plus, love it.
I have a hard time enjoying Johnny Cash's later material in particularily this album.
maxmox wrote:
a fallen....fallen...guiltily existential christian who could/can articulate his process...cave that is; and a signature version by JC that i first heard on the last part of a long road trip (2,000 m.) which renewed my respect and curiosity for the man in black
Yes. The process of telling the truth, of assuming responsibility as you're stripped of life. This version is brutally powerful. It reminds me "Dead Man Walking", one of the best films I've ever seen--also about a death-row inmate...
hippiechick wrote:
I get where this song is coming from, but it's a little too Christian for me. (I am not Christian)
a fallen....fallen...guiltily existential christian who could/can articulate his process...cave that is; and a signature version by JC that i first heard on the last part of a long road trip (2,000 m.) which renewed my respect and curiosity for the man in black
Paul_in_Australia wrote:
Its made of wood and wire and my body is on fire and its almost my time can't add another rhyme I'm feeling mad and wild verses only fit for a child maudlin and sentimental makes me quite mental dark and full of gloom as I walk into the room fall down to my knees "My royalties, please"
Nup, not today mate
oppositelock wrote:
Nick's acoustic version from B-Sides is just as good and different.
Have you ever seen the documentery that has him playing it in the studio at KCRW. I think its 1989. very cool.
I like JC's later work more than the early music that made him famous. ie: His work with Trent Resner from Nine Inch Nails is quite sublime. He really seemed to be more comfortable with himself once he got older. So much character in that voice! Johnny rocks! Out...
mjaded wrote:
Best I can figure from the web site, Bill has never played Nick's version. I can dig the cover but how about it? More Nick Cave!!!!!!!!!!!
Nick's acoustic version from B-Sides is just as good and different.
Best I can figure from the web site, Bill has never played Nick's version. I can dig the cover but how about it? More Nick Cave!!!!!!!!!!!
I love Johnny Cash and I love Nick Cave, who wrote this song. And Mr. Cash does a great job version of it. This is the first time I've heard it and I only came in at the end. I look forward to hearing the whole thing and posting my rating.
madaxeman wrote:
Like a lot of his latter output,quite majestic.
y'know, i wouldn't have thought to describe JC that way...but you're spot on
algrif wrote:
A fun song for a dull Monday morning
"Fun"?
A fun song for a dull Monday morning EDIT: for Mattt. I was being cynical. Brit dark humour.
Like a lot of his latter output,quite majestic.
Paul_in_Australia wrote:
"My royalties, please"
Yeah sure dude. The selfish prick did this to build up his retirement nest egg,not that he even wrote it. I guess that covers whatever way you were putting Johnny down for whatever reason.
Its made of wood and wire and my body is on fire and its almost my time can't add another rhyme I'm feeling mad and wild verses only fit for a child maudlin and sentimental makes me quite mental dark and full of gloom as I walk into the room fall down to my knees "My royalties, please"
I find myself liking Johnny Cash more and more.
ManchesterUK wrote:
Listening to this track makes me feel.....Sad :cry:
I was feeling same way.
10
goes from 9 to 10...
pianocomposer wrote:
I saw "Ring of Fire" and he did do prison time. Can't remember what for, but he got busted. I think it was for drugs.
Actually he didn't do prison time. He DID do jail time though. Wikipedia -
Although he carefully cultivated a romantic outlaw image, he never served a prison sentence, although he landed in jail seven times for misdemeanors, each stay lasting a single night. His most serious and well-known run-in with the law occurred while on tour in 1965, when he was arrested by the narcotics squad in El Paso, Texas. Although the officers suspected that he was smuggling heroin from Mexico, he was actually smuggling amphetamines inside his guitar case. (One report said that he was carrying a total of 1,163 pills). Because they were prescription drugs rather than illegal narcotics, he received a suspended sentence. He was arrested the following year in Starkville, Mississippi, for trespassing late at night onto private property to pick flowers. (This incident gave the spark for the song "Starkville City Jail", which he spoke about on his live At San Quentin prison album.)
Cash sometimes spoke of his erratic, drug-induced behavior with some degree of bemused detachment. In one incident, his truck caught fire, triggering a forest fire that burnt down half of a national forest. When the judge asked Cash why he did it, Cash said in his then-flippant style, "I didn't do it, my truck did, and it's dead so you can't question it."
I wasn't exactly swept up by the beginning, but as a Cash fan I was not disappointed! Definitely builds momentum.