Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ain't No More Cane On The Brazos

This is yet another American traditional song captured by Lonnie Donegan and transfered to England to water the seeds of the British Invasion. It is said that the birth of the Beatles took place at a garden party where John Lennon played "The Rock Island Line" - a distinctly American song which had been popularized in Britain by the Scotsman, Lonnie Donegan. In fact, Donegan recorded the Leadbelly classic at Broadhurst Gardens just a week after Elvis recorded "That's Alright, Mama" at Sun Studios. It was July of 1954 when these two white men pulled the blue sword from the black stone (to paraphrase Mr. Bragg) and invented Rock and Roll. This was folk process accelerated by technology, mass marketing and a post-war economy that brought American blues and folk artists across the Atlantic, and later brought their Rock and Roll delineators back as conquering heroes. All said, it was more of a circle than an invasion.

I've always felt like Elvis never really sang the blues - he used the blues to develop his singing style. Lonegan, on the other hand, embraced the blues as an art form, and remains one of the few white folks who can really sing from the heart and the soul at the same time - which is what I believe the blues to be. He also sang a little Woody Guthrie, I don't think Elvis ever went there, either.

"Ain't No More Cane On The Brazos" is a traditional prison song from Texas. The Brazos meanders through the parts of the state where the cane fields grew, and for years the prisoners acted as basically slave labor to work the fields and harvest the cane.


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