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Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison (1968)

August 3, 2013

[Album 219/1001]Johnny_Cash_At_Folsom_Prison

What a prolific artist.  55 studio albums, and At Folsom Prison isn’t one of them.

The moments that make this record special are primarily non-musical:

– The trademark “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” intro
– The instructions to the audience regarding cussing during recording
– Johnny’s multiple requests for water
– Unlike a recurring Vegas club gig (where a performer would tell the same jokes night after night), I strongly doubt there was any shtick, rehearsed gags, or scripted banter at the Folsom show.  If he was working with recycled material, then he’s a great salesman as it sounds like one-time-only stuff!  His reactions to an unexpected bit of applause are particularly memorable.
– Whereas Jimmy Fallon’s inability to keep it together during (just about every!) Best of Will Farrell dvd skit was frustrating, when Johnny laughs mid-song here it adds to the performance
– His rapport with the audience is unbelievable.  I believe this would qualify as a ‘tough’ crowd: 2,000 inmates & many heavily-armed guards.  Not one of the shows I’ll ever say “I wish I was there!” but one that I’ve enjoyed listening to in a considerably less intense environment.

Musically, his low E string is badly out of tune on Send a Picture of Mother but to me, somehow that imperfect authenticity enhances the record.

There’s a sincerity here that I don’t see any artists displaying in 2013.


From → 1960s

  1. I’m a San Quentin man. But this one right here is my second favourite. I have this in a 3 disc box set and it’s absolutely stunning. You can feel the electricity in the air, the sense that anything could happen.

    • Absolutely – intensity seemed to increase with Cocaine Blues/25 minutes to go. Probably a good move switching to a few ballads & adding in a bit of humour (flushed from the bathroom) before it got out of hand!

      • Hey speaking of 25 Minutes, have you heard Pearl Jam’s cover from the Benaroya Hall CD? Just great!

      • Listening to it as I type, good call (though in the video I’m watching Eddie is looking strangely like the Nickelback singer). That was another ‘live authenticity’ moment from the Folsom show where the countdown went from 5 minutes-to 7 minutes-to 3 minutes!

  2. I saw a documentary on this.. it is quite and interesting event. I don’t love Johny Cash but I can respect that he is a music icon. This event was pretty big.. and those men in the audience loved it.

    • I’d be interested in seeing the documentary – being in that room must have been an unforgettable experience.

  3. nicksalbumreviews permalink

    I have always loved Johnny Cash – who doesn’t!? Growing up in an Irish family there was the odd country song on now and then, and Johnny Cash was one of the first country artists introduced to me. I’m not familiar with this album at all, but per your review I shall indeed go and check it out – thanks!

    • Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.

    • Admittedly – I didn’t grow up with country either, the only ‘country’ song I knew growing up was “Achy Breaky Heart” and that’s probably not a fair representation of the whole genre! It’s well worth a listen – his songs are never terribly complex, but the emotion & the delivery is tough to argue with.

      • Personally, I feel that Achy Breaky Heart was like the nail in country’s coffin. Obviously there are still great artists doing country (Hank III for example) but the term “country” was killed for me when this slew of line-dancing plaid-wearing singers bombarded us.

      • And growing up in Burlington, Ontario country just wasn’t on the radar. So with Billy Ray Cyrus as my only example, I never understood the appeal until I was introduced to the Johnny Cash’s of the world. If recent Taylor Swift is still classified as “country,” perhaps the genre’s having a bit of an identity crisis.

      • Yeah and I’ve heard enough Taylor Swift to know her hits these days are not country! Poison could be country by the definitions they use today!

        Yeah, Burlington’s not really a big country town! They do have an Ikea though, gotta give ’em credit for that!

      • Finger Eleven & Ikea (and not the Burlington Coat Factory as many assume), 2 things worth bragging about!

      • True, Finger Eleven. The singer (can’t think of his name) was buddies/roomates with one of our managers, and he came out to at least one of our staff parties. I didn’t know who he was. He didn’t wear it on his sleeve, he just mixed in and and I was none the wiser.

      • The guitarist’s brother is buddies with one of my good friends – he said the same thing about the rest of the band, no trace of ego, just regular people.
        I’m in Kingston now and I’m pleased to say that’s the case with the hip too. I was coaching volleyball a couple years ago and Rob Baker was there in the stands, cheering on his son on the other team. No diva behaviour among Canadian Rock Stars!

      • No way! That’s awesome!

        Would you happen to know if Baker (and possibly Johnny Fay too) appeared in the Trailer Park Boys episode Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys? There are two guys who look exactly like them.

      • That I do not know – but it would make sense if they appeared uncredited, typical CanCon modesty.

  4. Love Johnny Cash, we don’t have many current country acts right now that interpret a song the way he did.

    • I remember you shared that nice Cash quote a while ago about moving on from mistakes. I think that’s probably why I enjoyed this performance so much, it wasn’t perfect, but there was no stopping the momentum – he kept on going not dwelling about a missed note here or there.

  5. I had to rescue a copy of of this LP that was almost thrown in a dumpster at my local transfer station…it is against all the laws of music and nature to treat this true classic like that.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Johnny Cash – At San Quentin (1969) | 1001albumsin10years
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