To put the performance on Johnny Cash at San Quentin in a bit of perspective: Johnny Cash 's key partner in the Tennessee Twoguitarist Luther San Quentin - Johnny Cash - Johnny Cash At San Quentin died in Augustjust seven months before this set was recorded in February In addition to that, Cash was nearing the peak of his popularity -- his live album, At Folsom Prisonwas a smash success -- but he was nearly at his wildest in his personal life, which surely spilled over into his performance.
All of this sets the stage for Johnny Cash at San Quentina nominal sequel to At Folsom Prison that surpasses its predecessor and captures Cash at his rawest and wildest.
Part of this is due to how he feeds off of his captive audience, playing to the prisoners and seeming like one of them, but it's also due to the shifting dynamic within the band. Without PerkinsCash isn't tied to the percolating two-step that defined his music to that point. Sure, it's still there, but it has a different feel coming from a different guitarist, and Cash sounds unhinged as he careens through his jailhouse ballads, old hits, and rockabilly-styled ravers, and even covers the Lovin' Spoonful "Darlin' Companion".
No other Johnny Cash record sounds as wild as this. He sounds like an outlaw and renegade here, which is what gives it power -- listen to "A Boy Named Sue," a Shel Silverstein composition that Justice And Justification - Larry and His Flask - By The Lamplight have been too cute by half, but is rescued by the wild-eyed, committed performance by Cashwhere it sounds like he really was set on murdering that son of a bitch who named him Sue.
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