2018 FELLOWS Danny Wilson & Tracy Schlapp
Folsom50 explores legacy through Cash prison concerts
PLAYING JOHNNY CASH IN OREGON PRISONS
Danny Wilson and Tracy Schlapp created FOLSOM50 with their band Luther's Boots to commemorate Johnny Cash’s legendary prison concerts. The performance resonates with Cash’s belief in reinvention, his own redemption — a biographical thread that ran through all of Cash’s catalog. Rather than replicating the shows, Luther’s Boots reinterpreted Cash’s music and styling by drawing from his ability to transmit the emotional complexity of hillbilly music. The songs from the “At Folsom Prison” live recording were styled by the band with an ear to contemporary audiences.
Cash empathized with the plight of the incarcerated and in doing so, remembered the forgotten through his music. The strains of his lyrics acknowledge human darkness, frailty, and the light found in redemption. The Cash prison concerts recognized a contract between performer and audience that is dignified through mutual respect. This idea resonated with the project creators as a larger framework for Cash’s musical and social/political legacy. And as such, they revived this spirit through a series of concerts in Oregon Prisons during 2018.
Ground Beneath Us supported a portion of the Oregon Prison Tour which paid travel expenses and musicians to play in prisons outside of the Portland Metro area.
The project continues into 2019 with a series of lectures and workshops that bring the duo back to prisons and the neighboring communities.
2019 ACCOUSTIC PERFORMANCE & STORYTELLING
Wilson and Schlapp have produced “CASH: Music, Legacy, & Redemption” a performance that mixes stories of bringing a concert and art to adults in custody, punctuated with musical excerpts of Cash songs. The Folsom50 shows were designed to broadcast the experience of folks inside in order to educate people about the needs of adults in custody. After touring the prisons statewide, the band members have experienced the power of making a positive connection. Seeds are sown when people are brought into a space filled with art, music, and ideas. The lecture is designed to cultivate an audience of students, artists, and citizens willing to advocate for adults in custody.
THE SCOUT BOOK PUBLICATION entered into the
GROUND BENEATH US LIBRARY
FOLSOM50 co-producer, Tracy Schlapp wrote an essay that unfolds during the year of rehearsals and performances with the band Luther’s Boots. The first part, "Music” was distributed in artist books and used as show programs in the prisons. The essay looks closely at the original prison concerts and contextualizes it through Cash's biography, his own writing, and the songs themselves. The full essay “CASH: Music, Legacy, & Redemption” weaves together the themes found in the songs Cash chose and finds the contemporary counterpoints in Oregon’s prison system. The Oregon Arts Commission provided a generous grant to publish a limited-edition Scoutbook to help document the project.