photo & text by nacrowe
so 9/11 happened during my senior year of high school and shortly thereafter i abruptly moved from KUWAIT, where my family was stationed at the time, to a suburb of SACRAMENTO to live with an aunt and uncle. obviously that was a tragic and turbulent time for lots of people and my experience was no different, having to navigate both a new school and living with distant relatives. during that year i got my driver's license and while i was taking driving classes my teacher had this thing for having his students drive out by FOLSOM PRISON while playing, you guessed it, AT FOLSOM PRISON (COLUMBIA, 1968) by JOHNNY CASH. for me, driving down US ROUTE 50 and venturing off to the prison is the defining experience i associate with CASH's music. did you know they have an store near the prison that sells art made by the inmates? neither did i.
regardless AT FOLSOM PRISON is the first of two legendary live shows recorded at NORTHERN CALIFORNIA prisons in the late 1960s. the first, AT FOLSOM PRISON, was not filmed but was photographed by the iconic, peerless photographer JIM MARSHALL. CASH's public persona was always that of a champion for the UNDERCLASS and DISPOSSESSED of AMERICAN society and these two shows very much solidified that association in the public's consciousness. its hard argue against such being the high watermark of his career full stop. standout tracks from AT FOLSOM PRISON include the duet (with wife JUNE CARTER CASH) "JACKSON," "COCAINE BLUES," "25 MINUTES TO GO" and of course, "FOLSOM PRISON BLUES."
written shortly before the concert, "FOLSOM PRISON BLUES" was CASH's attempt at EMPATHETICALLY putting himself in the mindset and perspective of an inmate incarcerated for murder. the much celebrated lined is from the first verse in which the narrator coldly explains he "shot a man in RENO just to watch him die" which heightens the sense callous RECKLESSNESS and MORAL DEPRAVITY at play in the decision-making process of a killer. but my tellingly my favorite line is from the third verse in which that same inmate fantasizes about what could have been his IDEAL life, eating in a fancy dining car, drinking coffee and smoking cigars, but "those people keep a-movin', and thats what tortures me." the world has moved past him without a blip and he is rotting in jail for a horribly misguided past decision, implemented on impulse. its one thing to make a mistake, but the real pain and anguish is having to stew and futilely attempt ATONEMENT for such the rest of your waking life. its a BRUTAL song that is deserved of its legendary and universally celebrated status.
should also mention that CASH here is backed by his band THE TENNESSEE THREE and the immortal ROCKABILLY god himself, CARL PERKINS. if you are into GOLDEN AGE COUNTRY, ROCKABILLY or even PSYCHOBILLY than this is a great record to check out. an outright AMERICAN classic.
cover by nacrowe
today's episode of DEER GOD RADIO at 4PM on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC is dedicated to ROCKABILLY, precursor to ROCK AND ROLL and one of the initial crossover hybrid musical forms incorporating AFRICAN and APPALACHIAN (via IRELAND/SCOTLAND) music traditions. join us in celebrating, along with JAZZ, one of the truly AMERICAN musical forms!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
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