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Johnny Cash | At Folsom Prison | Retro Album Review

Sony Music Entertainment
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Today, many people will openly drag the country music genre through the dirt. Yet, there is one country record that fans of modern country and fans of the classics can agree on as highly listenable and timeless: Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison. This record only improves over time and can be perfect listening to everyone who likes music.

For those that don’t know, At Folsom Prison was recorded live at Folsom Prison in California in 1968. Cash’s idea for this record began after the namesake track “Folsom Prison Blues” debuted in 1955 and opens the record. The song chronicles a man arrested for murder, who is then being sent to Folsom to do his time. The prisoners all cheer as he begins a classic, bouncy, yet sinister, acoustic guitar and his signature soulful vocals.

As one song concludes and the next begins, the record strings them seamlessly together, creating the feeling that listeners are there in the crowd. At times, Cash pauses between songs to talk with prisoners, like in “Dark as the Dungeon” when he says the iconic line, “this show is being recorded for an album release on Columbia records so you can’t say hell or (censored) or anything like that.”

Each song on the record features themes perfect for a prison show, ranging from a murder spree in “Cocaine Blues,” a gallows humor track about the final minutes of life before execution in “25 Minutes to Go,” and of a prisoner planning his escape in “The Wall.” Each song combines prison songs with elements of western swing to create the classic Johnny Cash country western sound he used for the rest of his career. 

Even if country isn’t a go-to genre for most listeners because of its modern connotation, At Folsom Prison deserves a listen from everyone. It truly is an experience to listen through and feel transported to this iconic show.

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