Review #164: At Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash

Karla Clifton
3 min readAug 26, 2021

#164: At Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash

A note for regular readers: Next week, I’ll be transitioning from my regularly scheduled programming of “every damn day” to “every damn Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.” This is because I recently started grad school and have much less time to obsess over music. Please use the extra time you have during the week to a) solve world hunger, b) visit your loved ones, or c) write me hate mail.

I’m mostly in this crazy project to learn a lot about my favorite thing, and I definitely learned something: Johnny Cash is hilarious.

He’s so snarky and even a little bit rude about the prison guards! He’s mocking everyone the whole way through. My favorite part is when he lets the prisoners all know that they are being recorded and so they are not allowed to swear. “You can’t say *BEEP* or anything like that.” Let me hear Johnny Cash swear!

If I were a prisoner, Johnny Cash is maybe the only rock star I’d want to see. I didn’t realize that Cash has another prison album, At San Quentin. Apparently it didn’t do nearly as well as this one (have you even heard of it?) but I appreciate his cause. Prisoners deserve joy.

Fun fact, famous songwriter Carl Perkins was in his backing band!

FAVORITE SONGS:

“Folsom Prison Blues” — This song was written in 1953, fifteen years before this album was released. Makes sense why all the prisoners are so freaking excited. I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die, is maybe the greatest line of all time.

“Dark As The Dungeon” — There are not nearly enough bass voices in music anymore. Everyone is a tenor or a baritone.

“Cocaine Blues” — Are they really not letting Johnny Cash swear, but they let him sing a song about shooting your girlfriend because you were on too much coke?

“25 Minutes To Go” — This one actually really really stressed me out. I love when his voice cracks.

“Orange Blossom Special” — “Have to change harmonicas faster’n you can kiss a duck.” LOL what?!

“The Long Black Veil” — Really beautiful. Nobody knows/Nobody sees/Nobody knows but me.

“The Wall” — About a prisoner staring at the wall and contemplating getting out. Love how the prisoners cheer when Johnny Cash says of the prison guards, “They’re mean bastards, ain’t they?”

“Dirty Old Egg-Suckin’ Dog” — HAHAHA. If you’ve ever owned an elderly dog, this will tug at your heart and also make you guffaw.

“Flushed from the Bathroom of your Heart” — The way the prisoners crack up when he says the title line of the song.

“Jackson” — June Carter has an awesome voice! Also she’s a hoot!

“I Got Stripes” — The sudden introduction of backup vocals are delightful.

“Greystone Chapel” — Okay, wow. This was written by Glen Sherley, who was a prisoner at Folsom. He was in the front row when Johnny Cash suddenly played his song, much to his surprise. What a delight! Less delightful: Sherley became a songwriter and then committed suicide at age 42.

LEAST FAVORITE SONGS:

“Green, Green Grass of Home” — I’m a little bit bored of these slowpoke country ballads, and it sounds like the prisoners are a little bit bored, too.

IS RS FULL OF IT?

I’m gonna say something that’s really gonna piss my editor off: This album should be above Saturday Night Fever. You can’t stick Johnny fricking Cash underneath a disco movie soundtrack. I’m sorry, Sean!

Review #163: Saturday Night Fever, Various Artists

Review #165: Murmur, R.E.M.

--

--