What a way to start a day. "Big River" opens the At San Quentin recording from the legendary 1969 concert, and begins with roaring applause, followed by the man in black introducing himself, that definitive soundbyte we've all heard a million times. The song is under two minutes in length, yet it gets the juices flowing and makes you almost feel like you're at the concert. For me, anyway, listening to Cash's prison recordings always makes me think about the glimmer of excitement he gave those prisoners, in remarkable contrast to their presumably depressive daily prison lives. It makes me think about the human experience as a whole. No matter how terrible your sin, you deserve a moment of joy, or so Cash would seem to say.
"Big River" is one of those songs, like many of Cash's, that I've known all my life. It didn't appear on the original release of At San Quentin, but it leads the longer re-release of the concert that came out in 2000. It is essential Cash, with lyrics that tell a disparate tale of lost love over a signature Cash country rhythm. It has certainly started my toes a-tappin', and I intend to spend the rest of the morning with San Quentin on repeat. Essential listening for all.