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With His Hot and Blue Guitar!

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Johnny Cash stood out from his Sun Records labelmates by virtue of his seriousness – even in his pre-Man In Black days, there was a solemnity to his baritone and overall bearing that made Elvis and Jerry Lee seem like mischievous schoolboys. The brooding charisma of his early years is caught on His Hot And Blue Guitar (1957), a time capsule of a debut album that proves Cash was an eclectic artist from the start. He rocks convincingly on “Cry! Cry! Cry!” (his first hit single), grasps the essence of country blues on “I Heard That Lonesome Whistle” and gets into a folk groove on “Rock Island Line.” The spiritual fervor heard in “I Was There When It Happened” balances the rustic good spirits of “Country Boy.” Most memorably, Cash infuses “I Walk The Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues” with the passion and foreboding that became his trademark for nearly half a century. The Tennessee Two — especially guitarist Luther Perkins — provide taut, prodding backing. His Hot And Blue Guitar hints at the sufferings and triumphs Cash would experience in the decades ahead. These tracks are the foundations of an indisputably legendary career.

Customer Reviews

A Landmark Album Blurring Country from Rock 'n' Roll

The sound of roots country has held a spot within underground popular music as long as R.E.M. brought Georgia twang to the cool table. Most recently the excitement of this totally American music has produced offspring in the form of Ryan Adams, Son Volt, and most notably the Jack White-produced Loretta Lynn Grammy-winner, Van Lear Rose. Johnny Cash’s music serves strongly as a source of inspiration for this new breed. There are only a handful of monumental albums in the country music genre, but Johnny Cash’s With His Hot and Blue Guitar is unquestionably sharing top ranking with the best of Hank Williams Sr. and The Carter Family. Johnny Cash’s signature sound was not restricted to the expectations of country music fans, as he reached further into rock ‘n’ roll territory than any other country musician. “Rock Island Line,” the album’s opening track, sets a tone which can not be described with any word other than “cool,” as this is the birth of cool (apologies to Miles Davis). With a slight reverb on his voice, and cascades of reverb on his hot and blue guitar, Johnny Cash stepped onto the scene in 1957 with a debut instant classic. At 25 years of age, Cash sang on this album with a melodic, conversational voice barely concealing years of experience precocious for such a young man. Imagining how he conjured the hard-luck stories of “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk The Line,” “Country Boy,” and “Cry Cry Cry,” brings to mind images of a boy who grew up too fast in the cotton fields of Arkansas. When Cash was 12, his 14-year-old brother, Jack, died after an accident. Cash acknowledged the death had a profound impact on his music, and he noted it may be one reason for his music's melancholy tinge. In 1954, Cash auditioned for Sam Phillips at Sun Records, hoping to record some simple gospel songs. Instead, Phillips (who had discovered Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis) pushed Cash toward a more rockabilly sound. The tracks on With His Hot and Blue Guitar drew immediate attention, as the single "Cry, Cry, Cry," quickly became popular, "Folsom Prison Blues" went into the Top Five in country singles, and "I Walk the Line" became Cash's first No. 1 country hit. In the new film Walk the Line starring Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, the legendary musician is portrayed wearing his trademark black wardrobe. When told that he looked like he was always going to a funeral, the man in black responded, “Maybe I am.” It was at the Opry that Cash became known as "The Man in Black." "Everybody was wearing rhinestones, all those sparkle clothes and cowboy boots," he said in 1986. "I decided to wear a black shirt and pants and see if I could get by with it. I did and I've worn black clothes ever since." Cash recorded more than 1,500 songs in his lifetime, but none carry the power of fierce struggle within his soul more than With His Hot and Blue Guitar.

A monument in time

JR had better albums later, but as Sun's first LP, this is a classic. The clickety-clack sound of the Tennessee Two back Cash in trademark fashion. JR was an original, a "blade of grass," and this was his beginning.

"I Was There When It Happened!"

.."And So I Guess I Oughtta Know!"..Yes; Sirree!-Johnny Cash really did "Hear That Lonesome Whistle" and made it over to Sam Phillips's Sun Records Studios; {And the rest; As they say; Is History!}-The future "Man In Black" was just a simple "Country Boy" @ 1957; Just wanting to lay down some basic Southern Gospel tracks with his terrific "Tennessee Two"-The ever enterprising Mr. Phillips heard "Something In There" when J.C. & The T. Two were practicing-John's mournful; yet joyous Voice and Luther's "Hot & Blue Guitar"-"Hillbilly"+"Rock&Roll"="Rockabilly!"-And Sam & Sun had another smash "Hit Single!": "Cry, Cry, Cry!"-Another classic "Rock And Roll Originator"; In Style & Attitude was the great Johnny Cash! Grimmbo.


Born: February 26, 1932 in Kingsland, AR

Genre: Country

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Johnny Cash was one of the most imposing and influential figures in post-World War II country music. With his deep, resonant baritone and spare percussive guitar, he had a basic, distinctive sound. Cash didn't sound like Nashville, nor did he sound like honky tonk or rock & roll. He created his own subgenre, falling halfway between the blunt emotional honesty of folk, the rebelliousness of rock & roll, and the world-weariness of country. Cash's career coincided with the birth of rock & roll, and...
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