Video of the day: Johnny Cash Live from Austin, TX 1987 (concert video)

Johnny Cash Austin TX 1987

“In case you’ve been born since ‘56 and never heard it…this is the way it sounded 31 years ago when we recorded it.”
– Johnny Cash (introducing I Walk the Line)

“At one point, while introducing his band, Cash tells the audience, “I don’t even remember the bad times, there’s been so many good times,” but on the best moments of this performance, it’s clear he never forgot the valleys of his life, and they informed his work even on what should have been just another television gig following the release of an album (Johnny Cash Is Coming to Town) destined to be lost in the shuffle.It’s the strength of ordinary moments like this that serve as a reminder of how remarkable Johnny Cash really was, and while Live from Austin TX is hardly his definitive live album (that honor would go to Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison), it’s a potent and thoroughly enjoyable disc that fans will want to hear.”
– Mark Demming (

Recorded on January 3, 1987, Live from Austin, TX is Johnny Cash’s performance from the Austin, Texas television show, Austin City Limits. It was released on New West Records in 2005. Cash performs many old hits, and performs new ones from his latest releases on Mercury Records, where he just recently moved to. The CD and DVD do not contain the whole show — the songs “The Big Light”, “A Wonderful Time Up There”, and “The Fourth Man in the Fire” were left out.

The songs “Let him Roll” and “Sam Stone” are worth the watch alone, for me. June joins in later and the couple gives us a heartfelt performance. And of course, you have your standard classics. This tv-concert is one you will play over and over and over.

What really makes this set so enjoyable is what are sometimes refered to as “obscurities”. I prefer the term “rare gems”. Let Him Roll is one of those rare gems. When Cash is at his best he captures in 3-4 minutes what I would call a story-song, a little novel or movie in a song. Here he tells the story of a broken-hearted man rejected by a Dallas prostitute “in favor of being a girl about town”. The protagonist seeks refuge in white port wine. I would see that movie.

Something about Johnny Cash on this night captures a more quiet and somber man than the speed induced performances of his classic prison concerts. I like all versions of Johnny Cash, this show is a great watch and the voice is fantastic!

Set List:

  1. Ring of Fire
  2. Folsom Prison Blues
  3. Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down
  4. I Walk The Line
  5. The Wall
  6. Long Black Veil
  7. Big River
  8. I’ll Go Somewhere And Sing My Songs Again
  9. Let Him Roll
  10. Ballad of Barbara
  11. Sam Stone
  12. (Ghost) Riders In The Sky
  13. Where Did We Go Right? (With June Carter Cash)
  14. I Walk The Line (outro)


Johnny Cash was a consummate professional during good times and bad, and this complete, uncut 50-minute set from the long-running PBS concert series Austin City Limits shows the Man in Black in fine form, recorded at a time (January 3, 1987) when his career was in a state of uneasy transition.

Despite the success of his 1985 album Highwayman, Cash had been dropped by Columbia, his label of 28 years, and one can sense a hint of weariness in this otherwise-fine performance. As evident by the warm, enthusiastic audience, this eclectic gig also hints at the personal and professional revival that Cash would enjoy in his later years with producer Rick Rubin. Like many of Cash’s typical tour gigs, this one opens to the familiar strains of “Ring of Fire,” and includes a handful of hits (“Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk the Line,” “Long Black Veil”) along with a few rarities thrown in for good measure.

Recommended to Johnny by Kris Kristofferson, a cover of John Prine’s heartbreaking song “Sam Stone”–about the travails of a heroin-addicted Vietnam veteran–proves to be a perfect fit for Johnny (and a personal favorite), although Johnny (ever the devout Christian) changes the lyric “Jesus Christ died for nothin’, I suppose” to “Daddy must have suffered a lot back then, I suppose,” while retaining the song’s sad, tragic tone. Cash then follows with a crowd-pleasing rendition of “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky,” and his devoted wife, June Carter Cash, joins Johnny on “Where Did We Go Right?,” a song by David Loggins (newly recorded at the time) that serves as a fitting tribute to the Cashes’ long-term marriage. Johnny Cash considered this to be one of his finest TV performances, and considering this DVD’s superior sound quality, recorded in an intimate setting, who are we to argue?
-Jeff Shannon (Amazon)

– Hallgeir

One thought on “Video of the day: Johnny Cash Live from Austin, TX 1987 (concert video)”

  1. You’re right, Johnny Cash is tranquil here, and captures for us the right mood to listen to “obscurities” like Let him roll. Another good show, also “Live from Austin City Limits”, features Tracy Chapman. You’d probably like that, too.

Comments are closed.