With His Hot And Blue Guitar

Johnny Cash

Sun Records, 1957


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Maybe it wasn’t always the case, but nowadays, listening to a Johnny Cash record is often akin to putting on a comfortable pair of slippers. You pretty much know what to expect, and that end result makes you happy.

In 1957, Sam Phillips took a chance with Cash and made him one of the first artists to release a full-length album on his label (having specialized in singles up to this point). That disc, With His Hot And Blue Guitar, contains some of the most memorable work of Cash’s career, and while a few selections fall a bit flat today, it has remained overall an incredible album to listen to.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

If all you knew about Cash were his songs “I Walk The Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” then you certainly will not be disappointed, as these two tracks feature significantly on this album. But to limit the album to just these two songs is doing the bulk of the material a terrible disservice, as there are many other tracks worthy of your attention.

Take, for example, “Cry! Cry! Cry!”, “Country Boy” or “Doin’ My Time.” In another time and dimension, these more than likely would have been huge records for Cash—in fact, “Cry! Cry! Cry!” did achieve success on the country charts. But what sets the music that Cash and “The Tennessee Two”—guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant—apart from many of their peers in the country world is that the music has more than a tip of the cap to the nascent rockabilly scene that was developing. And while these tracks could not by any means be classified as rock, they have a peppiness in the delivery that wasn’t necessarily heard in the world of country and western music at that time.

There are, however, a few songs that have not aged nearly as well. Cash’s take on the standard “Rock Island Line,” despite the fact it shows off his ability to deliver guitar lines and lyrics in a rapid-fire style, fails to really catch the listener’s interest. And while I’m not going to knock his choice to include two Jimmie Davis gospel-oriented songs, one does have to question how these fit in with some of the other tracks. (And, yes, I’m well aware of Cash’s spiritual upbringing and faith—in fact, Cash would touch on these subjects for the remainder of his career.)

All in all, though, With His Hot And Blue Guitar is a respectable first full-length outing for Cash. Had this been the only album he released, it would still be recognized as the near-perfect classic it is. As it is, it’s an interesting snapshot of Cash’s early days, and sets a pattern of things to come from the Man In Black.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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