Album Review: “At Folsom Prison” by Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash Live at San Quentin, 1969 - Johnny Cash / Youtube
Considered as one of Johnny Cash’s best catalogs, the live album At Folsom Prison has Cash living his dream of performing at an actual prison, where he expressed his interest when he released the song “Folsom Prison Blues”. Cash has also had his fair share of notoriety with the authorities, being apprehended multiple times since the current decade due to his alcohol and drug problem. He has bounced back recently, though, taking his problems under control and looking to give his career a much-needed boost after years of decadence.
His live prison set was initiated by Carl Perkins and The Statler Brothers, before he came onstage bustling his classic “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash”. Right after, he goes straight to the point and digs in with “Folsom Prison Blues”, which was inspired by the movie Inside The Walls Of Folsom Prison. Songs like “Dark As A Dungeon” has a slow, waltzy arrangement to it, while “I Still Miss Someone” is tinged with a comforting melody, and was a joint written effort between Cash and his nephew Roy Cash Jr.
Cash also dabbles with some traditional and folk songs for his set, like “Orange Blossom Special”, a traditional fiddle song where Cash did the harmonica and vocals with gusto, “Long Black Veil” with its sublime and profound lyrics of a man making the ultimate sacrifice for his best friend’s wife, and “Send A Picture Of Mother”, showing the singer-songwriter in his peak form with one of the most longstanding folk songs in his arsenal.
At Folsom Prison was the push Johnny Cash needed to catapult him back to the limelight, hitting Top 20 spots in numerous locations upon its release. It also saw the comeback of some of his earlier works, which was a bonus when put aside Cash’s then-current acclaim for the live compilation. But what’s most memorable about the album is Cash’s outlook radically changed after suffering from substance abuse issues, positively reinforcing his progress and triumphing from the adversities he faced.