Tag Archives: Johnny Cash

Acclaimed Albums – At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 136/250Title: At Folsom Prison
Artist: Johnny Cash
Year: 1968
Position: #153

I think it speaks for either the number or general quality of live albums that so few of them are within the Top 250 list on Acclaimed Music. You could count the entries on your hands, possibly even just one of them. It’s also worth noting that these acclaimed albums are amongst the older ones on the list.

At Folsom Prison is probably the most interesting one of the live albums on this list because of the location of its recording. It goes without saying that most live albums tend to be in clubs, stadiums or some other regular concert venue rather than a prison. Full praise should therefore be given to Johnny Cash’s desire to do so – even if it just meant the chance to play ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ in an actual prison.

The album is made up of recordings of two shows he did in one day, with most of it originating from the first show. You can’t tell that they’ve pieced these together in anyway as the audiences are pretty much the on same level. I can only imagine how much joy these shows brought to the inmates – even if a large amount of the songs are about prisons, being in prison, committing crimes etc. I guess that’s what you get from having an outlaw country singer doing a show in a prison?

What makes At Folsom Prison a good listen is the same reason as for all good live albums: the energy. Music on an album is great, music performed well live is better. It’s because of going to gigs that I finally got Sufjan Steven’s The Age of Adz album (especially that final 20+ minute track). But that’s not the only thing that makes At Folsom Prison.

It might be an odd thing to think, but it feels like there is such an empathetic and emotional connection between Cash and the prisoners in his audience. This wasn’t just another gig, this was special to him and this is what shines.

Now this old style of country and rockabilly doesn’t to be my cup of tea. There are tracks on the second side which began to really drag for me, but that was probably because the first half was the more outlaw section (including the famous lines of “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”).

On the whole, however, this was a great chance to hear an icon doing what he does best and that’s worth the time even if you don’t enjoy the music too much. Or you could watch Joaquin Phoenix in Walk The Line, not quite the same but still a good experience.

 

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1001 Songs – 1956: Part Two

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Okay it’s weird to have had to split the year up, but this was a proper biggun. This is something that is just going to start happening whenever a year comes along with 12+ songs in it.

Honey Hush – The Johnny Burnette Trio

Well that sounded sexist. Basically a song where a man tells a woman to stop talking, get in the house and make his dinner.

Then again, that sort of talk in songs is nothing new or of note (sadly). The interesting this is the guitar. If you listen to it, when compared the cleaner sounds that have gone before, it is incredibly distinctive. This distorted growl was an accidental invention of the group and so the fuzz guitar was born.

I Walk The Line – Johnny Cash

Possibly one of the most famous country songs of all time. Now that I listen to it I am amazed at how well Joaquin Phoenix did in the movie.

The number of key changes in this song is astonishing (eat your heart out Eurovision). It’s not hard to hear Cash humming in the instrumental sections, he does that so he is able to make to the next key change. Why he went through so much trouble in making this song? Not sure, but it makes it a song that is easy to hum along to.

Knoxville Girl – The Louvin Brothers

I’ve actually listened to this song before as part of the Louvin Brothers album Tragic Songs of Love. It’s a murder ballad. We are talking WAY before Nick Cave’s album of the same name.

Not entirely sure what it says about our culture where a song like this has bumped from tradition to tradition. We look at rappers and their songs of gangster killing with some disdain. This is far more brutal. At least they get thrown in jail in this song though… makes it all okay I guess [/sarcasm].

Ella – Jose Alfredo Jimenez

Ranchera music. A traditional Mexican genre that is now more associated with mariachi bands (and you can just see the Mexican stereotypes in the horns around 1:20). ‘Ella’, written by the singer at the tender age of 18, conforms to the stereotype even more by being a song about a lost love.

My parting thought: I wish I could roll my r’s like Jose Alfredo Jimenez

Take My Hand, Precious Lord – Mahalia Jackson

And now to gospel music. I think I have said this about the 1001 list before, but the real strength is the ability to hop between a lot of genres rather than just listen to the 1001 best songs ever.

‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’ is a beautifully sung track by the Queen of Gospel. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame back in 2012. It’s understated and brimming with vibrato. All you hear is a light piano and the singer’s rich voice. It’s a far cry from what I would imagine a gospel song to be – but that may be my own prejudice against religious songs coming in.

Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash

The second song in this batch to be about murder and prison. This one is rather more eloquent in it’s lyricism and has that well established beat in the background to mimic the riding of a train. It’s hard not to tap your foot to this song and just imagine you are on this train riding along with him.

I have to listen to his Folsom Prison album for my albums list, might get to him sooner than I thought.

I Put a Spell on You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

If you listen to a lot of music, you will have come across a number of versions of this song. My favourite is still Nina Simone’s version.

The major difference between that version and this version by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins is simple. She takes a long while to get to the heightened emotions, he does not. Jay Hawkins is a classic example of a blues shouter and is a big influence on a lot of ‘shock rock’ that we will be getting to a decade or two down the line.

Brilliant version of this song. Now I know he has a pet skull called Henry as part of his image… I think I love him.

Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody – Louis Prima

After… that it’s time to make our way over to some swing music. Earlier in this year we had a track from Frank Sinatra’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, but Louis Prima’s album The Wildest is where you find the fun in swing.

As an album it’s mix of blues, (still-nascent) rock and roll and humour is infectious. This track is just an exemplar of this new and burgeoning genre. Even though he is singing about being all alone all you want to do is smile.

Rock Island Line – Lonnie Donegan

Harder to place this one. Maybe it’s because of the spoken word introduction with a the rather thick British accent. It’s ones of those songs that started a craze and inspired a lot of people to go pick up a guitar.

The best thing about this song is the gathering pace. By the end of it the song really is like a runaway train ready to go off-track. Something so very different to the songs that have come so far. It’s a testament to Donegan that he could keep up the pace.

Progress: 83/1021