“NEGRO FOLKLORE FROM TEXAS STATE PRISONS” by Bruce Jackson

Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons, is an album recorded in 1964 by folklorist Bruce Jackson. The LP features work songs, blues, spirituals, preaching and toasts (recited poems) performed by a group of inmates in the Lone Star State’s then-segregated agricultural prison farms. The recordings on this album were made in Texas prison farms in July 1964. Bruce had gone there in the hope of recording black convict worksongs, a tradition that derived from slavery, and, before that, was imported from Africa. Many of the prisons in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana where such songs had been sung, had been built on the sites of slaverytime plantations. It was as if the owners changed, but not much else…

 

Bruce was a 28-year old would be Jewish folk singer when he took his guitar to the first of these Texas State Prisons inspired by John Lomax’s pioneering experience in 1935, in another Texas State Prison—Sugarland, Texas—where folk singer Lead Belly sang his first song for him—The Midnight Special. Like Jackson, Lomax had only primitive recording equipment—which he carried around in the back of his big blue Ford station wagon… Intending to learn some of their songs for his own repertoire. Jackson’s genius was in soon recognizing that he was not the person who should be singing their songs—he stumbled on a much larger story that needed the prisoners themselves to tell it properly—not a young folk singer. In a profound moment of epiphany, he put down his guitar and picked up a camera—and started filming and recording them. The result was this groundbreaking album, Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons, recorded, edited and annotated by Bruce Jackson.

 

The cast were the prisoners, featuring performances by W.D. “Alec” Alexander, John Bell, Louis “Bacon and Porkchop” Houston, Jesse “GI Jazz” Hendricks, James Johnson, Joseph “Chinaman” Johnson, C.B. Snuffy Kimble, Arthur “Lightning” Sherrod, Eddie Ray Zachary and others… Raise Em Up Higher Don’t Look So Downhearted, Buddy Move Along Gator Three Moore Brothers Assassination Of The President Don’t Be Uneasy Rattler Hammer Ring T.B. Bees If You See My Mother Just Like A Tree Planted By The Water See How They Done My Lord Daniel In The Lion’s Den Forty-Four Hammers

 

THE B-SIDE “Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons” is now dramatised in haunting, soulful interpretation of the album, currently being shown throughout the month of March, at St. Ann’s Warehouse… it was brought to The Wooster Group by performer Eric Berryman after he saw the Group’s previous record album interpretation Early Shaker Spirituals Eric Berryman, Jasper McGruder, and Philip Moore channel the inmates’ voices, via in-ear receivers, and transmit them live. Berryman also provides context from the book Wake Up Dead Man: Hard Labor and Southern Blues by Bruce Jackson, the folklorist who recorded the album…

the album has now been remastered for vinyl and released in conjunction with the opening of this stunning interpretation…

PRE ORDER HERE…