The Very Best Prison Recordings
(Sony Music Entertainment)
Starting with the wavery bop of the short “I Got Stripes” into the low, acoustic guitar and vocal-only of “The Wall,” it’s hard not to be thrilled by Johnny Cash’s new record, The Very Best Prison Recordings. Taken from two previously-released live albums, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prion and Johnny Cash at San Quentin, the 12 songs collected here are pretty much perfect Cash at his dark best in a perfect setting for these tunes.
Even when things get wild with the dark lyrics, the jaunty music of “25 Minutes To Go” lets you know the old Man In Black was quite comfortable playing prisons like he did here. Even if you’ve heard some of these classic live recordings before, including tunes like “San Quentin” and “Folsom City Blues” (I think “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” is still one of the best all-time lyrics!), it can’t be denied the power of Johnny Cash and how well he plugged into the particular pain of prisoners worldwide.
“City Jail,” with it’s wonderful upright bass pumped nicely upfront in the mix, the piano-led “Orleans Parish Prison” as close as Cash ever gets to rock and roll, and the sad “Jacob Green” round out this truly great record.