Of course, maybe that’s just me, but he’s one of those artists that I know and love, yet don’t hear near enough about in mainstream country music circles.
Granted, he hasn’t released new music in quite a while, but still… the man just doesn’t get enough love.
Everyone knows “In Color” (or at least they should) because it’s one of the greatest country songs of all time. It’s full of soul and nostalgia and vivid imagery. It’s damn near perfection.
Why he isn’t up there with Chris Stapleton (and not just because they both have big ol’ beards and long hair) as one of the best country powerhouses is beyond me.
Take this performance of him singing Johnny Cash’s classic “Folsom Prison Blues” at the St. Louis Music Park earlier in September of this year.
Written in 1953, it was originally recorded in 1955 for his debut album, Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar!
He recorded a live version at Folsom State Prison in 1968. Released on his 1968 At Folsom Prison record, the live version version became a a monster hit on the country music charts and even reached No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
He also won the Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance at the 11th Annual Grammy Awards in 1969.
But Johnson’s voice is just absolutely killer on this song because he knows when to go deep, when to shout, and when to add in that bit of rasp to give the lyrics some grit.
My absolute favorite part of the song is when Johnson sings this line and allows his voice to go way down:
“When I hear that whistle blowin’, I hang my head and cry“
He follows it up one second later by shouting the word “cry” again just to add emphasis and make sure we’re all awake.
How could we not be, though?
With the guitar and Johnson’s voice, it’s nearly impossible to look away.
Now while Johnson is amazing, we can’t forget about the other musicians, specifically the piano player who really shines after the second chorus.
Honestly, the whole performance is just a vibe and a good freaking time.