A hard-rocking concert that’s paid its debt to society

Though Johnny Cash never spent more than a night in jail, he was often mistakenly believed to be a serious ex-con, and his classic concert at Folsom Prison illustrates why: In January 1968, he and his band (and his wife, June Carter Cash) played for 1,000 prisoners at the California penitentiary, delivering a raw and rollicking show that still feels daring in this deluxe, unedited package.

The two-CD Legacy Edition restores many unreleased tracks from that historic show, including opening remarks nervously delivered by disc jockey Hugh Cherry, and searing performances by Carl Perkins and the Statler Brothers. A second CD presents a previously unheard second show. (It’s every bit as good, and there’s also a documentary DVD that tells the whole behind-the-scenes story.) But it’s Cash himself who impresses most: Whether singing inappropriate songs (like “Cocaine Blues”), stumbling over his lyrics, or bantering with Folsom’s inmates, he always sounds like he’s among peers — friends, even — and whatever nervousness he might’ve felt doesn’t show.

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