Johnny Cash at San Quentin was a huge hit in 1969. The single “A Boy Named Sue” even bumped the Stones off the charts. But 37 years later, here’s the entire show — the one at which the famous photo of Cash flipping off a cameraman was taken — on two CDs plus a DVD. And it’s every bit as raw and furious as that photo would suggest. Cash had, we’re told, been off pills for months, but there’s still a hophead’s dryness in his throat that makes these tunes sound as if they were coming from his hard leathery core. There’s much here that the original single LP omitted, like stiletto-sharp guitarist Carl Perkins delivering a brilliant “Blue Suede Shoes,” and the Carter Family (with country-music matriarch Mother Maybelle) singing gorgeous mountain harmony, particularly when backing Cash on the gospel “Peace in the Valley.” There’s also a ripping run through “Jackson,” his smash duet with June Carter Cash. But mostly there’s Cash, singing lost-soul-to-lost-souls about the rot of prison life (“San Quentin,” “Orange Blossom Special”), the pain of broken love (“I Still Miss Someone”), and the lure of sex (“Big River,” “Blistered”). When he berates the warden for a glass of water that’s brown and then smashes it on the stage, it sounds as if a riot might break out. The truth is, this is Cash in absolute control of his art, his life, and his captive audience.
White light, white heat
Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons trump their impressive 2007 debut Bury Your Problems with the forthcoming White Lighter . The disc features an all-star array of acclaimed local artists chipping in — and was completed with the aid of fans who helped fund the recording process.
By CHRIS CONTI | December 01, 2010
Matthew Barney's seven-hour Cremaster Cycle descends in the Portland Museum of Art
Eight years after its completion, The Cremaster Cycle , Matthew Barney's interminable multi-media opus, continues to befuddle and intrigue audiences.
By ANNIE LARMON | November 10, 2010
Good and evil
Roots music is a big tent. The Molenes have poked their noses into just about every corner of it over the course of their first two records, trying out everything from bluegrass to rockabilly and moving from ripping twanged-out guitar solos to more refined acoustic finger-picking.
By SAM PFEIFLE | October 12, 2010
Kingsley Flood don't even like alt-country
I tend to suspect a solid percentage of what appear to be roots-movement bands are, in fact, punk bands who realized they get taken more seriously when they play acoustic guitars and pretend they've always been huge Johnny Cash fans.
By BARRY THOMPSON | July 14, 2010
Name that tune
Political experts know the most important factor in a successful race for governor is the campaign song.
By AL DIAMON | May 05, 2010
True Love Cast Out All Evil finds troubled Texas psych-rock legend Roky Erickson reflecting on a life filled with turmoil.
By MIKAEL WOOD | April 27, 2010
Artworks from "The Beast In Me—Johnny Cash: Art Influenced by the Struggle of a Man" at the Nave Gallery
Artwork from "The Beast In Me—Johnny Cash: Art Influenced by the Struggle of a Man" at the Nave Gallery
By NAVE GALLERY | April 20, 2010
In his paintings and music, Jon Langford resurrects and pays respect to a vanished American past
England in the mid-’80s, gray and depressed by Thatcherism and the Smiths, wasn’t a place folks typically dressed to the nines in ten-gallon hats, bolo ties, and Nudie shirts. But such were the sartorial choices made those days by the members of the Mekons.
By MIKE MILIARD | April 08, 2010
Stacked all-star tribute/benefit at the RISD Auditorium
The Nave Gallery in Somerville kicks off its month-long salute to the Man in Black next week.
By CHRIS CONTI | March 31, 2010
The Worcester Art Museum shows us ‘Who Shot Rock & Roll’
It is May 1966, in the Prelude Club in Harlem, an Atlantic Records release party.
By GREG COOK | March 24, 2010
It's always easy to forecast others' doom, announces Gil Scott-Heron near the end of his first album since 1994.
By MIKAEL WOOD | February 23, 2010
The ugly truths of the Dutchess & the Duke
Jesse Lortz is always ready to lay something heavy on you. As the primary architect and male half of Seattle indie-folk troubadours the Dutchess & the Duke (who come to T.T. the Bear's Place this Sunday), he spent their 2008 debut, She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke , contemplating loneliness, disgust, and death.
By REYAN ALI | January 05, 2010
Suzanne Vega, live at Harvard's Sanders Theatre, November 6, 2009
At the request of former Czech President Vaclav Havel, folk/alt-rock legend Suzanne Vega performed in Prague on Saturday with the likes of Lou Reed and Joan Baez to honor the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.
By CARRIE BATTAN | November 17, 2009
Heavy Light (2009)
Does the Devil really have all the best tunes? Go tell that to Bach, or the Sensational Nightingales, or Johnny Cash!
By GUSTAVO TURNER | November 10, 2009
Nick Lowe on growing up and growing old in the music business
Nick Lowe is a rare creature, a punk rock founding father who has endured and evolved gracefully.
By MICHAEL ATCHISON | October 07, 2009
In 1973, when she was an 18-year-old rock fan, Rosanne Cash's dad gave her a list of songs he felt she should know — mostly country, all falling under the current banner Americana. She held onto that list, and now she's recorded a dozen tunes from it.
By JEFF TAMARKIN | September 28, 2009
Goodbye, Mr. Hughes
Goodbye, Mr. Hughes
By MATT JONES | August 26, 2009
Elijah Ocean and Dave Gutter get busy taking it slow
Think about everything you know about Elijah Ocean and Dave Gutter: Ocean's work fronting the heavy rock trio Loverless, say, or his lead-guitar turn in the radio-rock foursome All the Real Girls; Gutter's piercing vocals out front of Rustic Overtones, or his white-hot bounce in the lead of Paranoid Social Club.
By SAM PFEIFLE | August 05, 2009
Between the Blockbuster and the beach there are the film festivals of New England
Summer traditionally has been the happy hunting ground for Hollywood studios — the time when they unleash their big-budgeted, f/x-heavy warhorses on armies of newly freed schoolchildren and frazzled adults trying to beat the heat.
By PETER KEOUGH | June 09, 2009
Hear Music (2009)
There are few genres into which Elvis Costello hasn't delved over the years, but he's always seemed particularly comfortable within the traditional back-porch country that occupies this latest session.
By JEFF TAMARKIN | June 08, 2009
Menopause the Musical summers at Trinity
Here's a hot flash for you: dying is easy (in the theatrical sense of bombing onstage); producing a successful show is hard.
By BILL RODRIGUEZ | June 02, 2009
The undiscovered country
Three Day Threshold take pride in their roots
By BARRY THOMPSON | January 26, 2009
Rock's critic-in-chief talks rock and roll photography
Greil Marcus on rock-and-roll photography
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY | January 21, 2009
Nothing new — and that's not a bad thing
The half-century chronology covered by the Portland Museum of Art's latest exhibition, "Backstage Pass," reveals in photographic portraiture a story of music that is a euphemism for the ultimate creative act. Like sex, rock-and-roll is about surrender to the present moment.
By IAN PAIGE | January 26, 2009
Mallu Magalhães is a teenage girl from São Paulo who was raised on a steady diet of old Beatles, Dylan, and Johnny Cash records.
By GUSTAVO TURNER | January 09, 2009
Beat Circus's Brian Carpenter returns to his roots
Multi-instrumentalist and Beat Circus patriarch Brian Carpenter has made his share of escapist music, but he's also written dozens of songs that confront real life.
By BARRY THOMPSON | January 07, 2009
Early rocker turned country icon Cash hit California's Folsom like a lightning bolt on January 13, 1968, delivering two raw shows to a captive audience.
By TED DROZDOWSKI | December 09, 2008
Paralyzing hopelessness at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam
Simply, there’s no more prestigious place for a documentary to debut than IDFA, rightly regarded as the very best documentary festival in the world.
By GERALD PEARY | January 23, 2009
You heard it here first
WFNX has always been a maverick radio station.
By TED DROZDOWSKI | December 03, 2008
Rune Grammofon (2008)
Flowers of Evil — a covers record, though it includes two originals — lacks power.
By DEVIN KING | November 24, 2008