Friday, 28 May 2010


"The songs are sung outdoors. They are sung in daylight only. They do not exist in the dark. But it is darkness or absence or lostness or vacancy or deprivation that they are about...The constraints...are the most obvious: the guards, escape, sentence length, geographical places remembered or longed for or heard of, sickness, death, guns, the work itself. The songs concentrate on the devices and forms of control and the manifestations of impotence. The language is...highly concrete, but the themes are not; the themes are negatives: things like unlove and unfreedom and unimportance..."

-Wake Up Dead Man: Afro-American Work Songs from Texas Prisons, collected and edited by Bruce Jackson (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972), p. xvi. See Rounder Records 2013. As quoted in Rounder Records 1715 Prison Songs: Historical Records from Parchman Farm 1947-48.

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