At Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash

Recorded on January 13, 1968 and released in May of that same year, this live recording went to #1 on the U.S. Country Charts. It was initially certified Gold but has since gone on to be Triple Platinum certified. This concept album revitalized Cash’s career. HERE is the oral history of this album if you are interested.

Jason: You have been to a lot of concerts but never one in prison, thankfully. What do you think of this?

Brad: I think it is brilliant for someone like Johnny Cash with his outlaw image to record a live album at a prison. I appreciate this album more than I actually enjoy it. 

Jason: Agreed. I find this album to be really depressing and kind of unsettling.

Brad: When I first started listening to this I kept thinking, ‘this is such a dated era of songwriting where it kind of glorifies being a crimina’l. But if you think about it, this was the precursor to gangsta rap. 

Jason: That’s very insightful. I was just thinking that some of the songs were pandering to the audience, although in what I’ve read Cash really was sincere in the songs. Some of which are pretty terrible, in my opinion. That’s an interesting comment about gangsta rap.

Brad: There is some redemption and regret in the songs. I think that makes it a little sad. Especially when you think about how the audience would view those lyrics

Jason: Definitely. Some of these songs are good and I bet this was a highlight for the audience. There are just a few songs that I don’t like “25 Minutes to Go”, “Dirty Old Egg-Suckin’ Dog” and “Flushed From the Bathroom of your Heart” are clunkers.

Brad: I agree. Those three are some of my least favorite. Did you know “25 Minutes to Go” was written by Shel Silverstein?

Jason: I didn’t until I looked that up and then it made sense because he is a weird dude. This was an album I really, really had a hard time listening to repeatedly. The first time I couldn’t even listen to it straight through.

Brad: I didn’t enjoy it at all the first time through but I’ve listened to it about 7 times now. I’ve gotten used to it and I find that it goes by pretty quickly now. There is something very charming about Johnny Cash and I think that comes through on this album.

Jason: Seven is a lot. I do think he is charming and sincere and I like June Carter-Cash on some of the songs. For me, I wouldn’t listen to this album ever again but rather just a greatest hits compilation.

Brad: I do love Johnny Cash’s greatest hits. He has quite a few classic songs. Would you listen to his follow up live prison album “At San Quentin”?

Jason: No. I have reached my limit of prison-based concept albums. What a weird niche to find. He has 3 prison concert albums

Brad: What’s the third. I only know of the two prison albums. 

Jason: På Österåker from some Swedish prison.

Brad: Wait, he also has “A Concert Behind Prison Walls” from 1976. So he has four! He really created his own live album genre. 

Jason: Sheesh. It’s a cottage industry.

Brad: Do you think Depeche Mode would ever record a live album at a prison?

Jason: Maybe at some abandoned prison with good acoustics but probably not for a prison audience. Are there are a lot of new wave criminals?

Here is a list of 8 more albums recorded in prisons NOT by Johnny Cash.

Brad: Maybe? But I agree, they would be more likely to perform at an abandoned prison with Anton Corbijn filming it in black and white.

Jason: For sure. So what grade are you giving this depressing album?

Brad: I’m going to give it a B-. How about you?

Jason: A straight C. I appreciate the sentiment but I could NOT wait to be finished with this one.

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Below is the scratch-off artwork from the 100 Bucket List poster.