Monday, 16 November 2009

Johnny Cash and His Hot and Blue Guitar/ Johnny Cash Sings The Songs That Made Him Famous

We hit the C section good and proper today, and we hit it running with a double disc pack by Johnny Cash, hist first two albums to be precise, Johnny Cash With His Hot And Blue Guitar and Johnny Cash Sings The songs That Made Him Famous.
Johnny Cash means a great deal to me, his music has been with me since I was a very small child and I have yet to hear a song by him that I disliked. Periods that divide other fans, I adore, its hard to be subjective when you struggle to see anything wrong with him and so this is more of an apology as I have quite a number of Johnny Cash discs and I love all of them.
Where to start? Lets start with the debut …Hot and Blue Guitar. Released in 1957, not only Johnny’s debut album, but the first LP to be released on Sam Phillip’s Sun Records. A milestone not just for the label but I will wager for Rock n Roll, Rockabilly, and Country music.
On this album Johnny is backed by Luther Perkins, Marshall Grant and session musician Al Casey, at this point drummer WS Holland hasn’t joined the band and the Tennessee Three is merely the Tennessee Two.
As a statement of intent, this is a brash and as fierce as the famous ad of Johnny giving the finger. It comes out swaggering and against the grain of 50’s hillbilly music.
A number of covers are present, his take on Rock Island Line on this album is the best of anyones, Luthers guitar driving that train. Also he takes on Hank William’s (I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle, pretty faithful to the original and its clear across the tracks that Williams is the major influence, not just in his song selection and reinterpretation, but also in his own songs, and it is in his own songs where his strength lies and this is where the swagger, the statement of intent and the self belief come in. Undoubtedly the strongest songs on this album are the ones penned by JR Cash.

Well, you work all day
While you're wantin' to play
In the sun and the sand,
With a face that's tan.
At the end of the day,
When your work is done,
You ain't got nothin' but fun.

Country Boy, you may not have shit, but you aint got no worries either. Maybe Johnny put it a little more eloquently than that, but basically that’s what he is saying.
If Country Boy was the only original song on this debut that would be enough, but Cry Cry Cry and So Doggone Lonesome also appear along with I Walk The Line.
The stand out track for me, easily the stand out track was the beligerant, unapologetic, snarling song that is Folsom Prison Blues, easily one of Johnny’s best, and on a given day it may be his best. Musically magnificent, lyrically brilliant. A perfect song.

I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die. Exceptional. 10 out of 10.

Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash (an absolutely fantastic performance it is too)

Which brings us on to Johnny’s second album, 1958’s Johnny Cash Sings The Songs That Made Him Famous.
Following up such a strong debut must be intimidating, but to follow it up and have more faith in your own songs, at a time when you had singers, and you had songwriters, that’s just massive self belief. That is though what Johnny did on the follow up, more of his songs.
There are still nods to his hero Hank Williams in his cover of Williams’ I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You), and Williams influence is still apparent in Cash’s tone, but that’s was soon to disappear as Cash slowly becomes his own man.

Just around the corner there's heartache
Down the street that losers use
If you can wade in through the teardrops
You'll find me at the Home of the Blues

Home of The Blues on this album is possibly my favourite, chronicling an unhappy childhood, a partner to Heartbreak Hotel, but where that was love, this is more circumstance. Johnny Cash carving out a niche as the dark man of country, the man in black isn’t quite there yet, but he isn’t a million miles away.

Big River continues the theme, sadness, and dark moods, a gorgeous song and a great great closer to this album.

Through Ballad Of A Teenage Queen, the reappearance of I Walk The Line, through to Guess Things Happen That Way and Next In Line, this album is just perfect, still the Tennessee Two haven’t been augmented by WS Hollands drums but you don’t miss them, Luther Perkins guitar style is such that you don’t need the drums.

Another fantastic album. 10 out of 10

Home of The Blues by Johnny Cash


  1. Is JC going to get straight tens for every album?

  2. I dont want to spoil it for you, or our readers, but he may do.