There are few more iconic openings to country songs than Johnny Cash saying “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” at the beginning of “Folsom Prison Blues” opening his live album At Folsom Prison and the prisoners just erupting. Any cover version of this song has to reckon with that moment, and probably the best thing to do is to utterly ignore it: either cover the original 1955 recording, years before the live album, or to be inspired by the energy in either prison version but omit the intro.
The String Revolution, who we last saw covering “Crazy Train,” solve this problem by recording an instrumental cover. For it, they’re joined by legendary Australian acoustic guitarist Tommy Emmanuel. And their solution to that intro is to create an all new instrumental intro that sounds utterly unlike “Folsom Prison Blues” or any other Johnny Cash song.
It actually takes them 45 seconds to get into the song, with intro setting up a mood of mystery and anticipation, given how foreign it sounds to the idea of a “Folsom Prison Blues” cover. But then the guitarists break out and we are treated to a finely played, energetic instrumental cover. However, Emmanuel and the String Revolution aren’t done playing tricks. The song has multiple instrumental breaks that deviate wildly from the original, both in terms of the actual sound and the spirit. The result is an extremely inventive and playful instrumental cover of song known mostly for its lyrics.