Rolling Stone Magazine has a list of what it feels are the greatest live albums in rock and roll history on their website. Number three on the list is the 1968 recording At Folsom Prison from Johnny Cash. I agree with Rolling Stone that this is a fantastic live record.
The music of Johnny Cash comes across really well in a live setting points out music industry leader Susan McGalla. You can hear the stripped down arrangements of electric guitars and drums clearly. The vocals are clear and up front.
What makes this prison recording so special is the enthusiasm of the audience. You can hear the passion and support in the cheers from the prisoners in the audience. For whatever reason, Cash was very popular with men in institutions from the 1950’s through 1980’s. If a man was in prison or a mental institution during that time period, then the chances are good that he liked Johnny Cash.
Johnny Cash had trouble finding his market in the music industry during his day. He was a little too alternative for mainstream country, and he was a little too out there for mainstream pop. He found his audiences in the margins of American society. There was nothing especially pretty about the Man in Black, but his fans loved him nonetheless for being the unique musical presence he was.