“San Quentin, may you rot and burn in hell”
– Johnny Cash
If Cash’s Folsom Prison album wasn’t bold enough, with this second live classic, “At San Quentin”, he doesn’t fuck about. With his dark dedication to San Quentin prison he nearly started a riot, and when he’d finished playing and looked out at the crowd he got right back up and sang it again.
It’s a thrilling moment on an album that causes the same goosebumps as “Live at Folsom Prison”, even if the mood is actually slightly calmer and thoughtful than its predecessor. He covers the John Sebastian track “Darlin’ Companion” with a sombre respect, and talks about his pilgrimage to Israel in “He Turned the Water into Wine” with the reverence you’d expect.
Which is not to say the album is dour or humourless; in fact it’s the moments where he’s winking at the camera that this ablum peaks, like on the track that was to be his biggest hit, “A Boy Named Sue”. With Carl Perkins, The Statler Brothers and June Carter Cash waiting in the wings, it’s loaded with enough pep that it hardly takes a breath, but make no mistake, this is Cash’s album.
In fact, I’ll go one better – if you want to get someone hooked on Johnny Cash, a nice gift-wrapped copy of “At San Quentin” is a pretty good place to start.