This album changed my life: Johnny Cash – American Recordings (1994)

Musician Seamus Fogarty on the album he first ignored and later owed a debt to

 

More than a couple of years ago, I packed my bags and headed off to university in Dublin. Weekend visits back to Mayo saw me raiding my brother’s tape collection for new music but there was one tape, a bit like the cursed video tape in The Ring, that I refused to touch – a blank C60 tape with “American Recordings” scrawled across the top.

As far as I was concerned, Johnny Cash played country music, an evangelical brand of which my local radio station had played on repeat, the only relief provided by the death notices. Eventually I rinsed the brother’s music collection and I gave American Recordings a shot. The production, the sense of space in the recordings and the songs themselves – a mixture of covers and originals – made this cassette indispensable throughout my college years.

When I took my first boozy, tentative steps on to the stage in bars around Chicago, Berlin and Ireland, I pilfered half of this album to fill out my sets, sandwiching my own fledgling efforts in between classics like Delia’s Gone and The Tennessee Stud – good times, patchy memories.

Years later, Tennessee and Arkansas would be replaced by equally exotic places like Leitrim and Roscommon, the acoustic guitar would learn to coexist with samplers, electronics and synthesizers, while any hint of an American accent was banished. But I’ll always owe a debt to this album. 

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