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Open mic — Ye Olde Royal Oak (5)

I’ve played at three open mics in three days. The open mic run by Sweet Lou at Ye Olde Royal Oak is a fine affair, with good acoustics and a generous audience.

For my fifth time at Ye Olde Royal Oak, I opened with two Johnny Cash songs, “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Belshazzar.” These are the first songs I san at open mics back around 2000. “Belshazzar” is among Cash’s first original compositions, perhaps among his first four. I heard “Belshazzar” in my college days, having picked up a cassette tape of gospel recordings by Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. These recordings were made while both were at Sun Records. Cash didn’t record many gospel songs at Sun. The producer, Sam Philips, didn’t think the industry could support another gospel singer, so Cash sang mostly secular songs. But he did record “Belshazzar,” and that recording ended up on a 45″ and later an album. Some pressings have an annoying piano bit during the chorus, but most CD issues are pure. I don’t know that Cash played the song much. I’ve only heard a live radio version and a live recording from his 1970s TV show. It’s a great song, though, in the genre of Bible narrative songs.

I sang first sang “Belshazzar” at the open mic at Mountain Bible Church, after we got our new sound system. Don Strand, who is now pastor at Cazedero Community Church, played guitar. Later, I sang it at James Lick High School, and Seth Haak (son of John Haak, pastor at Mountain Bible) played guitar. I’ve sung “Belshazzar” a few times since, mostly at camps and once on a bus in Bolivia. As I still don’t know the guitar part, I sang it accapella tonight.

“Folsom Prison Blues” is a bit of a standby. I remember that song from the Folsom Prison Blues live album, recorded at Folsom Prison. I probably heard that as a kid. I sang it at James Lick too, and Seth Haak added a punk guitar solo to it. It worked, I wish we had a recording of it. I sang in the style of Cash, Seth played in the style of The Clash. Memorable.

Anyway, here is a list of songs I played tonight:

1. Folsom Prison Blues (Cash)
2. Belshazzar (Cash)
3. Highways Heading Home (original)
4. All I Want Is You (U2)

5. I Need You (original)
6. With or Without You (U2)
7. I’ll Press On (original)

8. Peacemakers (original)
9. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Dylan)

© 2009, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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