Early rocker turned country icon Johnny Cash hit California's Folsom like a lightning bolt on January 13, 1968, delivering two raw shows to a captive audience. They were edited into a multi-million-selling single LP that made him a counterculture celebrity and energized the prison-reform movement, the latter contributing to his anointment as an American hero.
Forty years later, every tune Cash and his troupe of June Carter, Carl Perkins, and the Statler Brothers played that day has been included in this two-CD set. Flubs — like the blown lines in "I'm Here To Get My Baby Out of Jail" — and pure corn like the Statlers' "You Can't Have Your Kate and Edith, Too" make the grade. And the 45 songs are enhanced by Michael Streissguth's excellent liner notes and Jim Marshall's photos, which capture the musicians' sober reaction to the prison's gothic world.
Even better is the set's DVD documentary: inspired by Streissguth's 2004 book Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: The Making of a Masterpiece, it uses a Ken Burns–like approach to examine the historic concerts' impact on Cash, Folsom's inmates, and the nation.