CASH: Music, legacy, & REdemption
Danny Wilson and Tracy Schlapp created FOLSOM50 with their band Luther's Boots to commemorate Johnny Cash’s legendary prison concerts. The performance resonated with Cash’s belief in reinvention, his own redemption — a biographical thread that ran through all of Cash’s catalog. During 2018, Luther’s Boots performed concerts in eleven of the fourteen Oregon prisons. Rather than replicating the shows, Luther’s Boots reinterpreted Cash’s music and styling by drawing from Cash’s ability to transmit the emotional complexity of hillbilly music. The songs from the At Folsom Prison live recording were styled by the band with an ear to contemporary audiences.
HOW DO YOU SING A CASH SONG? & OTHER QUESTIONS
The project started with a thought on a summer day: I would like to play At Folsom Prison start to finish. Response: That would be really interesting if you did it in prison.
As it turns out, folks light up when you mention Johnny Cash. The band came together, prisons were interested, grants written (with results hanging in the balance), and the lovely Polaris Hall in NE Portland was made available to help raise funds for a tour. Good ideas become great ideas through hard work and collaboration. The band worked tirelessly to find a way to both engage with the musical heritage and find their place in the songs. There is no imitating Cash’s voice, rather, it is bringing his spirit to life through intentions. What would Johnny do? Well, he might smile wryly.
“CASH: Music, Legacy, & Redemption” describes the project through acoustic excerpts of select Cash songs, punctuated with the story of bringing a concert and art to an underserved community.
The lecture has been presented in Oregon prisons, Willamette University, Blue Mountain Community College, and other schools — it cultivates an audience of students, artists, and citizens willing to advocate for adults in custody. Seeds are sown when people are brought into a space filled with art, music, and ideas.
FOLSOM50 co-producer, Tracy Schlapp has written an essay that unfolds the year of rehearsals and performances with the band. The essay weaves together the themes found in the songs Cash chose and finds the contemporary counterpoints in Oregon’s prison system. Part 1 of the essay was distributed in artist books and used as show programs in the prisons.
The Oregon Arts Commission provided a generous grant to publish a limited-edition Scoutbook to help document the project. Find it at Cumbersome Multiples.
“Shine a Light” is a recording of the concert in Evans Auditorium at Lewis & Clark College and is available for download. Luther’s Boots played a public concert that included students and families of the incarcerated. The concert received generous support from Regional Arts & Culture Council. Great thanks to Eric Iverson of Rose City Sound who provided sound equipment and recorded the show.
A special limited-edition print is available for sale at Cumbersome Multiples with a download code for the album.