Johnny Cash–Folsom Prison Blues (Live)

And the crowd goes wild.  From the very opening words, the iconic “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” the atmosphere is electric for the live performance of Folsom Prison Blues at its eponymous pen.  It’s a rare example of the audience lending just as much to a live track as the performer.  Cash’s wild charisma is on display throughout with his wry, rattling delivery.  But the palpable sense of danger in the air comes from the whooping, whistling, cheering inmates.  It feels like a near-riot at times, but Cash demands too much respect for them to pull something in his presence.  The performance also reiterates his skill as a lyricist, playing on several folk traditions to produce a modern take on the prison song.  His words capture the pain of isolation and confinement, both physically and socially.  He keenly channels what the inmates must be thinking about the haughty folks on the outside, imagining, “they’re probably drinking coffee and smoking big cigars.”  The thing that stings the most, though, is the freedom they take for granted.  In one of the greatest lines in country music, Cash observes that “those people keep a-movin’/And that’s what tortures me.”  It’s a thrilling, magnetic performance enhanced by the gratitude of an audience seeking a moment of escape.

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