A new Johnny Cash live album, recorded in 1968 in San Francisco by legendary taper and audio engineer Owsley Stanley, will be released on September 24th by the Owsley Stanley Foundation and Renew Records/BMG. It features Johnny Cash performing at the Carousel Ballroom on April 24th, 1968, in the center of Haight-Ashbury.
The album was recorded just days before the release of his best-known live album, Live at Folsom Prison.
It also landed him, now a well-known and celebrated country performer, smack dab in the middle of the late-1960s counterculture.
Going inside that Grateful Dead-owned ‘psychedelic total-environment dance venue’ in the heart of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury counter-culture was as bold as shutting himself in with maximum-security prisoners two hours away.
Cash’s set may have deviated from his regular one owing due to the setting. The album includes two Bob Dylan covers. It also features renditions of songs from Dylan’s own catalog that were neglected at the time.
Going to Memphis, which Cash originally recorded in 1959, is an epochal black blues chain-gang chant. It was collected on the tape recorder of the famous musicologist, Alan Lomax, inside a Mississippi prison in the 1940s. The song harkens back to a not-too-distant period of cruel, compelled labor and punishment in the American south. Cash’s career had been uneventful during this period. This reminds us why he became, and continues to be, our most enduring musical conscience.
The technique Stanley recorded it gives it a different character to Folsom and San Quentin.
Because they were recorded in venues that were not designed to capture superb audio, the last two have a raw immediacy. Carousel, on the other hand, was recorded using techniques Stanley learnt while working as the venue’s in-house engineer.
Bear’s recording provides us with an entirely new perspective on Johnny’s live sound at this creative peak. It’s definitely the most accurate representation of what it sounded like to be in the audience. This recording is out of the ordinary. Johnny is centered in the stereo soundstage on every other Johnny Cash song you’ve ever heard. Johnny, on the other hand, is totally on the right channel, while the Tennessee Three are all on the left.
At the Carousel Ballroom will be available on CD and double-LP vinyl. It will include a booklet with new articles by Cash’s son, John Carter Cash, Starfinder Stanley, Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, and Dave Schools of Widespread Panic. As well as new art by Susan Archie and a reproduction of the original concert poster by Steve Catron.