May 15, 2010

A couple of years ago I stumbled into a small record store in Frankfurt, Germany where I bought an album called Negro Prison Songs. Upon returning home, I was blown away by the sounds coming from my speakers. Recorded by Alan Lomax in 1947 at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman Farm, these songs are eerie reminders of the brutal experience that many suffered at the hands of the southern penal system.

"These songs belong to the musical tradition which Africans brought to the New World, but they are also as American as the Mississippi River. They were born out of the very rock and earth of this country, as black hands broke the soil, moved, reformed it, and rivers of stinging sweat poured upon the land under the blazing heat of Southern skies, and are mounted upon the passion that this struggle with nature brought forth. They tell us the story of the slave gang, the sharecropper system, the lawless work camp, the chain gang, the pen." --Alan Lomax

PS. Our sister site Newstalgia has for its Backstage Weekend offering, Moby, Live at Glastonbury, 1988.

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