Back when I was a kid, Dad had a Johnny Cash single in his record collection featuring ‘A Boy Named Sue’ and ‘Folsom Prison Blues’. I don’t ever remember him playing it but the curious title led me to to putting it on the record player one day and I’ve loved those tracks ever since.
I’m generally not a fan of country and western music although some of my favourite artists, such as Paul Kelly, The Waifs and Bruce Springsteen, regularly stray into C&W territory. Despite this I recently purchased the two Johnny Cash live in prison albums, those recorded at Folsom and San Quentin. I’m sucker for a live album containing artist-audience banter at the best of times* but these are brilliant. Cash, who had his share of dealings with the justice system, really connects with the inmates in his audience. Indeed, I almost wonder why the prison authorities let him return, given his criticism of the correctional system.
Anyway, returning to old favourite tracks made me think much how I enjoy a story told in song and I’ve started putting together a Storyteller playlist. It’s a work in progress but here are some of the tracks and influences that I’d highly recommend.
Johnny Cash – A Boy Named Sue; John Henry’s Hammer; I’ve Got Stripes
Paul Kelly – Other People’s Houses; Bradman; Everything’s Turning to White (based on the Raymond Carver story); Maralinga; Our Sunshine (based on the Robert Drewe Ned Kelly story) and many more
Bruce Springsteen – The entire Ghost of Tom Joad album; The River; Thunder Road; Nebraska; and many more
Bob Dylan – Hurricane (I’m a latecomer to the Dylan canon)
The Waifs – Bridal Train; Vermillion
Weddings, Parties, Anything (and Mick Thomas) – Scorn of the Women; Sergeant Small; A Tale They Won’t Believe; Fathers’ Day
John Butler Trio – Caroline
I could go on but this post, like my playlist, will become too long. My point is that enjoying short stories doesn’t necessarily involve scanning the printed page. Check out some of these lyricists and you won’t be disappointed.
* Springsteen’s Live 1975-1985 is absolutely sensational and contains personal stories as well as his musical snapshots of back-streets America. It’s hard to find but well worth hunting down.