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At Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash

At Folsom Prison

(1968), 6/10
Johnny Cash always had a bullet proof reputation, both a respected elder statesman of country music and an anti-authoritarian hero. His baritone is authoritative, imbuing his music with gravitas, and it’s perfect for these dark tales of crime and punishment that he’s singing to an appreciative prison audience. Cash performs with backing band The Tennessee Three, and it was recorded at a time when he’d cleaned up his personal life.

Cash has the captive audience lapping up these songs, and it’s a compelling performance – songs like the execution countdown of ’25 Minutes To Go’ are riveting. But with Cash’s limited vocal style and these simple country songs, At Folsom Prison is an event more than a record that stands up to repeated listening. There are highlights like Cash’s sensitive vocal performance on ‘Long Black Veil’ and June Carter’s harmony vocals on the lively ‘Jackson’.

At Folsom Prison is a terrific document of a masterful live performer, and it’s something that every music fan should hear. But it’s not an album that I need to have in my collection.

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