The album's songs are diverse for Cash, and it's the first time since his last album with June Carter, White Shoes & Gravel (2005), and his previous album with the Carter Family, At Folsom Prison (1968) that he recorded an album of original material since the release of his self-titled album Johnny Cash (1958), with only two cover songs recorded for American Recordings and Lost Highway. Cash's other three albums recorded for the label American II: The Songs of Hank Snow, American IV: The Unreleased 1969 Sessions and American V: A Hundred Highways, as well as the soundtrack for the documentary American IV: The Unreleased 1969 Sessions are also original material.
The album peaked at #50 on the Billboard 200 album chart with 17,000 copies sold in its first week. The album's sales were 31,000 copies in the United States, and it became Cash's lowest charting album since his debut album, Johnny Cash (1955), which peaked at #50 with a then-staggering total of 80,000 copies sold.
According to Billboard , it also reached the top spot on the Canadian Albums Chart. It was also the best-selling album of 2010 in Canada. As of February 2011, the album has sold 493,000 copies in the U.S.
The album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums chart, giving Cash his first number one on that chart. It also debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, giving Cash his seventh number one album on that chart. The album went on to sell over 142,000 copies in the U.S. within its first week of release.
American VI: Ain't No Grave was reissued on the Lost Highway label on June 30, 2010 with a remastered version of the original album, as well as a bonus disc containing some of Cash's rare and previously unreleased songs. The remastered edition was once again the #1 selling album on iTunes for the week ending July 5, 2010.
Ain't No Grave was originally planned to be a double album. However, American Recordings and Cash opted to release the album in a single disc. Cash would have been 78 years old at the time of its release. This album, like American V: A Hundred Highways, features guest appearances from country artists Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard as well as John Carter Cash and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. The album is a return to traditional country music after Cash's music had been recorded during the last few years of his life. American VI: Ain't No Grave is the first Cash album to feature Haggard and Nelson.