Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison (1968)
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.