Big Brazos: Texas Prison Recordings, 1933 and 1934

(
Rounder Records
2000
)

Prisons were the last home for the work song tradition that African slaves had used to keep themselves alive in the brutal plantation economy of the American South. The Texas prisoners recorded here used work songs in the same way and for the same reasons. These songs have a variety of subjects, but what they're really about is staying alive in hell.

1. AIN'T NO MORE CANE ON THE BRAZOS (2:47) Ernest Williams and group

2. BLACK BETTY (1:24) James "Iron Head" Baker and group

3. OLD RATTLER  (3:20) Moses "Clear Rock" Platt and James “Iron Head” Baker

4. STEWBALL  (3:07) Lightnin' Washington and group

5. LONG JOHN  (2:34) Lightnin' Washington and group

6. GO ‘WAY, EADIE  (2:12) Dave Tippin and Lightnin’ Washington

7. BLACK GAL (2:33) Lightnin' Washington and group

8. GONNA BE A WITNESS FOR MY LORD (1:39) Lightnin' Washington, Dave Tippin, and group

9. HAMMER RING (2:39) Lightnin' Washington and group

10. I WONDER WHAT'S THE MATTER (3:01) Lightnin' Washington and group

11. GREAT GOD A’MIGHTY (LONG HOT SUMMER DAYS) (3:32) Lightnin' Washington and group

12. GO DOWN, OLD HANNAH (2:38) Ernest Williams and group

13. JOHNNY WON'CHA RAMBLE (1:39) Dave Tippin and Lightnin’ Washington

14. GO ON, OLD ‘GATOR (1:41) Augustus  "Track Horse" Haggerty and group

15. OLD RATTLER  (2:38) Augustus "Track Horse" Haggerty and group

16. GOD A’MIGHTY DRAG  (3:23) Augustus “Track Horse” Haggerty 

17. MAMA, MAMA  (2:54) Augustus “Track Horse” Haggerty

18. DROP, OLD DIAMOND (6:05) Jesse Bradley and group

19. WACO IDA (3:36) Jesse Bradley and group

20. HAMMER RING (2:39) Jesse Bradley and group