In “Walk the Line,” June Carter refers to Johnny Cash’s voice as “Steady like a train, sharp like a razor.”

Amen, sister.  When I think of Johnny, without fail I’ll get an image in my head of an old steam train– big, black, strong & steady.  And of course that classic Cash chicka-boom rhythm sounds just like a trusty ol’ train a rollin’ round the bend, and right on time– so reliable, you could set your watch to it.  Yeah, Johnny Cash sang a lot about trains, prison and hard times– and we all know through his epic lyrics that the beauty of the train is that it represents the freedom of leaving the past behind.  All that crap that you just need to separate yourself from with miles and miles of railroad track and dust. A new start, a second chance.

There’s also something lonely and soulful about a train ride– staring out as the barren landscape goes drifting by.  It’s just you and that train.  It holds you there firmly, with nothin’ to distract you from who and what you’re leaving behind– as the soothing click of the rails beneath your feet reminds you that soon it’ll all be long gone.

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Johnny Cash at San Quentin

1968, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison., 1968.

It was 1968, and Johnny Cash was finally at a place in life where he was able to get a grip on his drug addictions — with the love and support of his wife June.  Johnny had always wanted to perform at Folsom — ever since he first recorded the tune Folsom Prison Blues back in 1957 for Sun Records.  After years of delays caused by management changes at Johnny’s record label, and battles with his own personal demons, the time was finally right.

Backed by the legendary Carl Perkins, the Tennessee Three, not to mention June Carter Cash (a musical dynamo in her own right ), Johnny and company set out to California’s Folsom Prison to put on one helluva show (two shows actually) for the penned-up boys in blue.  The resulting live album At Folsom Prison was a huge success that reignited Johnny Cash’s career, and is an enduring classic that is hands-down required listening for all Johnny Cash, American Roots, and Country Western music fans.

From the moment you hear that “Hello — I’m Johnny Cash” and that guitar — you’re flat hooked, brother.



Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, 1968.


johnny cash folsom prison

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, 1968.

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