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.
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
Sometimes the greatest discs are the ones you least expect.
By CHRIS FARAONE | November 06, 2008
Fall into local music (and other ironic urgings)
Fall appropriately takes the baton (sorry, Olympics still on the mind) from a stand-out summer of music in Portland.
By SAM PFEIFLE | September 10, 2008
One Kind Favor | Geffen
This is his best since his 2000 collaboration with Eric Clapton, Riding with the King .
By TED DROZDOWSKI | September 10, 2008
Our heartfelt condolences to Usher, Sammy Hagar, Courtney Love, and the Verve
One writer to another, I offer Mr. Portnow some freebies he can use to wrap up his next few releases.
By DAVID THORPE | September 08, 2008
Penrose and friends bring the heat
The Cranston-based quartet Penrose continues to impress, delivering a fervent set at Lupo’s last Friday. The crew has been busy since they swept two categories in this year’s Best Music Poll.
By CHRIS CONTI | August 20, 2008
The Big Hurt: Boy George vs. America; Coldplay vs. some dude; 50 Cent vs. chalupas
Devastating news: Boy George has been denied entry to the United States!
By DAVID THORPE | June 30, 2008
Gypsy Tailwind debut a tremendous vocal pairing
There’s something thrilling about the right harmony of opposite-sex voices, the meaning and emotion they can convey, the balance of power and grace.
By SAM PFEIFLE | May 21, 2008
Dolly Parton rolls out the big guns
Dolly Parton should run for president.
By TED DROZDOWSKI | April 30, 2008
Notes on Girls Guns and Glory and new happenings in Worcester
Girls Guns & Glory celebrate the release of their third CD, Inverted Valentine , May 2 at the Middle East downstairs, with support from the Everyday Visuals.
By JIM SULLIVAN | April 29, 2008
The Big Hurt: Trent Reznor pushes the premium fabric-bound envelope
Last week, Trent Reznor shocked fans and industry types with the surprise on-line release of a new instrumental album, Ghosts I-IV .
By DAVID THORPE | March 10, 2008
Dirt Farmer | Vanguard
If there’s still any debate over who was the soul of the Band, it ends with this album.
By TED DROZDOWSKI | February 12, 2008
Music seen at Dogfish Bar + Grill, December 5, 2007
There are few terms in musical parlance that are as loaded as “open mic.”
By TODD RICHARD | December 12, 2007
Dewey Cox and Rufus Wainwright
A good number of the jokes in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story are available for your amusement right now, well ahead of the film’s December 21 theatrical-release date.
By MIKAEL WOOD | December 04, 2007
Joy Division were rooted in grim finality. Now, through a series of new books, CDs, and films, the band has found new life.
What a difference a death makes.
By JAMES PARKER | October 24, 2007
Heeere’s . . . Johnny Cash!
To many political conservatives during Vietnam, championing the music of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Joni Mitchell was the equivalent of French-kissing Chairman Mao.
By TED DROZDOWSKI | October 23, 2007
Our critics pick the 14 producers with the fattest, meanest beats
Not unlike Swedish, Tagalog, and Esperanto, music is a language, with its own conjugations and (lewdly) dangling participles.
By PHOENIX MUSIC STAFF | October 18, 2007