Tuesday 26 March 2013

Top 102 Albums⁺ No 32 With His Hot and Blue Guitar

Top 102 Albums⁺ No 32 
With His Hot and Blue Guitar - Johnny Cash

Trying to pick out a single album from the myriad albums released by Johnny Cash is an invidious task.  The two great live prison albums; his duets with June Carter; the wonderful Bitter Tears with the deathless Ballad of Ira Hayes and the wonderful historical revisionism of Custer:
"Now I will tell you buster that I ain't a fan of Custer
And the General he don't ride well anymore
To some he was a hero but to me his score was zero
And the General he don't ride well anymore"; Orange Blossom Special, which introduced Dylan to the Grand Ol' Opry and saw waves of venom aimed at Cash; or perhaps one of the albums from his magnificent late flowering? In the end I decided to go back right to the beginning and pick his debut album, which was also the first album released by Sun Records. I also have a very prized original copy from my parents collection.

The album has the classic lineup of Cash and the Tennessee Two, Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant. The songs are short, simple and direct. Cash was always direct, whether singing to his lord, being mawkish, plumbing tragic depths,  confessing his sins, delivering punchlines or promising love. You could use his voice to define the word. Open the dictionary and it just plays I Walk the Line.

The songs on this album include many that have long entered the canon: Cry, Cry, Cry; I Walk the Line; The Wreck of the Old 97 and Folsom Prison Blues... Johnny managed to be a rebel who never turned against his parents or their generation, a traditionalist who appealed to iconoclasts; he is one of those voices that all subsequent voices will be measured against, and found wanting.

The first songs I learnt to sing were Cash songs* - Billy Don't Bring Your Guns to Town; Get RhythmRing of Fire. I've listened to him since I was born and I don't intent stopping until I die.

*As an additional "bonus?" I have uploaded The Knocking Shop's rough version of The Green Green Grass of Home, a song I learnt from Johnny. Not that he should take any blame for the mauling I gave the song.


  1. Ashamed to say that I only really came to Cash with The American Recordings. Worked my way back to the Prison albums. He was a contrary cuss from breakfast to bed; 'Hurt' a raw wound that would never heal...

    1. It wasn't so much that I came to Cash. More like he came to me. An inordinate amount of my record collection was/is taken up by the three C's Cash, Cohen and Cave. Wouldn't they have made a most biblical baritone Barbershop (holy) trinity?
      Darkness, religion and redemption.
      It's also quite difficult to make inroads into his wider body of work, as the quality control is sometimes variable and everything that was ever recorded seems to find its way out somewhere. My favourite re-release story is of Sam Philips rereleasing the 1956 cut Get Rhythm as a single with applause dubbed on to ride the coat-tails of the live albums success in 1969.

  2. So it took 13 years for the applause to echo on down?
    Sounds like a Miracle Mile gig...