Saturday, April 25, 2009

Blues Song In The Spot Light: Ain't No More Cane

I remember the first time I heard the prison work song Ain't No More Cane it was one of those moments when blues music caused me great sadness.

I don't normally associate blues music with sadness, but this song takes me there. It might have been Leadbelly's delevery, but I thought about all those men who died working on prison work gangs.

Over the years there have been a few more upbeat treatments of the song, and some have really made it rock. Check these out;




Ain't no more cane on the Brazos(1)

Oh, oh, oh, oh...

Its all been ground down to molasses

Oh, oh- oh, oh- oh...


You shoulda been on the river in 1910
They were driving the women just like they drove the men.

Go down Old Hannah,(2) don'cha rise no more
Don't you rise up til Judgment Day's for sure

Ain't no more cane on the Brazos
Its all been ground down to molasses

Captain(3), don't you do me like you done poor old Shine
Well ya drove that bully(4) til he went stone blind

Wake up on a lifetime(5), hold up your own head
Well you may get a pardon and then you might drop dead

Ain't no more cane on the Brazos
Its all been ground down to molasses.

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[1] The Brazos is a river in Texas which features in many prison songs because it runs past virtually all of the old prisons in Texas.
[2] Old Hannah is the name given to sun.
[3] Captain is one of the ranks in the hierarchy of prison guards, the man in charge of half the workers in a field. Also used outside the prisons to mean the White boss. In some of the old slave songs the singers call Jesus their captain. I also think that this language carried over from the Civil War.
[4] Bully: an inmate working in the line. The word can also be used as a verb, in which case it means working hard.
[5] A Lifetime prison sentence.


Other Notable Versions

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by OllabelleOllabelle - YouTube Version two

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Ollabelle




Ain't No More Cane by Bob Dylan & The Band (MP3 Download)The Band - YouTube - The Basement Tapes (1975)

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Bob Dylan & The Band




Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Lyle LovettLyle Lovett - YouTube Kansas City 2007

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Lyle Lovett




Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Son VoltAin't No More Cane mp3 by Son Volt (Non Album Track)





Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Band Of HeathensAin't No More Cane mp3 by Band Of Heathens






Ain't No More Cane mp3 by The Tex-I-An BoysAin't No More Cane mp3 by The Tex-I-An Boys

Very traditional version





Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Paul Austin KellyAin't No More Cane mp3 by Paul Austin Kelly






Ain't No More Cane mp3 by by Ernest Williams & James (Iron Head) BakerAin't No More Cane mp3 by by Ernest Williams & James (Iron Head) Baker

Song by actual prison gang




Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Dennis MonroeAin't No More Cane mp3 by Dennis Monroe

Triditional folk version





Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Alan LomaxAin't No More Cane mp3 by Alan Lomax

Traditional folk version





Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Harvey ReidAin't No More Cane mp3 by Harvey Reid

Traditional folk treatment






The Band - YouTube - Woodstock 69

Lonnie Donegan - YouTube (1958) Very sad version.

Eric Bibb - YouTube Wales in 2006

The Black Crowes - YouTube in Portland, ME

TheFolksinger - YouTube For Odetta

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