Review Summary: The debut album from Johnny cash on the legedary Sun Label. Better than the debut of Elvis?
Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar is the debut album of Johnny Cash, released on October 11, 1957. The album contained four of his hit singles: "I Walk the Line," "Cry! Cry! Cry!," "So Doggone Lonesome," and "Folsom Prison Blues." It was re-issued on July 23, 2002 as an expanded edition, under the label Varese Vintage, containing five bonus tracks, three being alternate versions of tracks already present on the original LP. On the Varese re-issue It would appear that the version of ‘"Country Boy’, may well not be the one on the original release, it’s still a good version though.
Since the introduction of CD’s there seems to have been a move towards filling them up, with albums usually being at least 50 minutes, and many being well over an hour long. ‘The original vinyl of ‘with His Hot and Blue Guitar’ is 27 minutes and 40 seconds long and packs more quality into that short time span than many of the big acts of modern times could ever manage.
‘Folsom Prison Blues’ offers up the iconic lyric, “When I was just a baby my mama told me, Son, Always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns, But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” later performed at Folsom Prison itself and resulting in a loud cheer from the prisoners. This track seems to me to be the first step on his path to becoming ‘The Man In Black’. Then again we have ‘I Walk Line’, a song with resonance through the ages and which was the title of the 2005 biopic starring Joaquin Phoenix & Reese Witherspoon. It was also the first number one Billboard (Country) hit for Cash. The single remained on the record charts for over 43 weeks, and sold over 2 million copies.
‘with His Hot and Blue Guitar ‘ was the first LP ever issued on Sam Phillips' legendary Sun Records label. Phillips had Elvis, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis on the roster, but chose Cash for their first Long Player, and listening to this solid collection of songs, sparsely performed, with Cash accompanied by the Tennessee Two (Luther Perkins & Marshall Grant) it is fairly clear why. Also, four of the tracks had already been hits (I Walk the Line," "Cry! Cry! Cry!," "So Doggone Lonesome," and "Folsom Prison Blues") so it was a solid foundation upon which to take the first foray into releasing Long Players. It is not immediately evident upon first listen that there is a the lack of drums, as the songs don’t miss percussion, standing up quite well for themselves without the need for beat, provided as it is by the upright bass and tick-a-tacka guitar.
Though it may be a contentious statement, I would rate this album higher than the debut release from then stablemate, Elvis Presley, which is a great album, but somehow more contrived and, as a whole, not as well conceived. This first release from Cash is extremely well formed, with not a second of wasted space, great songs, performed wonderfully and should be taken out and played regularly. It’s almost criminal not to.
Johnny Cash - Main Performer, Vocals
Luther Perkins - Electric Guitar
Marshall Grant – Bass
Sam Phillips – Producer