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Jan 13: I realize that we heard from J.R Cash just the other day. Nonetheless, on this day, the anniversary of an auspicous event — the recording of the live album Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison in 1968 — a quick Cash turnaround is in order.  Rather than pick out a single song from this milestone concert, I’m linking to the entire album. Listen to any or all of the tracks — and marvel.

At Folsom Prison is the moment,” writes Stephen Thomas Erlewine on Allmusic.com, “when Cash turned into the towering Man in Black, a haunted troubadour singing songs of crime, conflicted conscience, and jail.” Erlewine is reviewing the most recent presentation of the event, a double CD plus DVD collection that includes both concert sets performed by Cash, The Tennessee Three, June Carter, the Statler Brothers and Carl Perkins. The audio I’m linking to is from an earlier release, with only one set presented. But the reviewer’s point remains the same. Read the whole thing and prepare to gain insight.

On a personal note, the original LP was the first non-kiddie record I bought with my own money, in 1969 or ’70. Looking back, the 7- or 8-year-old me was really affected by the downer songs — “The Wall,” “Send A Picture of Mother,” “Long Black Veil.” But none touched me more than “Give My Love To Rose,” with Its story of an ex-con traveling far to reunite with his wife and young son, only to die before he could get there. It’s the first song that ever brought me to tears. (Unfortunately, clicking the “Rose” play arrow on this collection brings up Cash’s original Sun recording of the song. It’s good, but to me it lacks the emotion of the Folsom version.)

Vocal clinkers, out-of-tune guitars, aural evidence of the technical limitations of recording in a cafeteria at close quarters — you’ll hear all of that, but it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. History is seldom perfect, and “history” perfectly describes Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison.

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