Jail House Bound: John Lomax's First Southern Prison Recordings, 1933

( Global Jukebox Records 2014 )
Available for purchase:


In 1933, with the support of Macmillan Publishers and the Music Division of the Library of Congress, John A. Lomax made the first of his field-recording trips through the American South. Joined by his seventeen-year-old son Alan, Lomax visited some of the most notorious Southern penitentiaries—among them Sugar Land in Texas; Angola in Louisiana; Parchman Farm in Mississippi—where he knew anachronistic strains of African American folk-song would be preserved away from the influence of the radio, the phonograph, and cross-pollination with whites. The Lomaxes recorded the songs of timber and ground-clearing gangs, chants of the road and railroad crews, solo field hollers with their roots running deep into the antebellum south; they also recorded comic songs, blues, and spirituals. By late 1934, they had recorded dozens of singers and hundreds of songs—"poetic expressions," as Lomax described them, "of pungent wit, simple beauty, startling imagery, extraordinary vividness and power."

Jail House Bound, a production of West Virginia University Press, collects the earliest of the Lomaxes' prison recordings-made between July and December 1933 in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee-and draws on new remasters from the fragile original acetate discs. The album is introduced by noted American music scholar Mark Allan Jackson (author of Prophet Singer: The Voice and Vision of Woody Guthrie).

Jail House Bound is released digitally by Global Jukebox in collaboration with West Virginia University PressAlso available as a CD through WVU Press.

  1. Rattler by Mose “Clear Rock” Platt
  2. That’s Alright, Honey by Mose “Clear Rock” Platt
  3. The Midnight Special by Ernest “Mexico” Williams
  4. Ain’t No More Cane on the Brazos by Ernest “Mexico” Williams 1933
  5. Ain’t No More Cane on the Brazos by Ernest “Mexico” Williams with James “Iron Head” Baker
  6. My Yellow Gal by James “Iron Head” Baker with R.D. Allen and Will Crosby
  7. Black Betty by James “Iron Head” Baker with R.D. Allen and Will Crosby
  8. The Grey Goose by James “Iron Head” Baker with R.D. Allen and Will Crosby
  9. Long Gone by “Lightning” Washington
  10. Long John by “Lightning” Washington
  11. Good God Almighty by “Lightning” Washington
  12. Stewball
  13. John Henry
  14. He Never Said a Mumbling Word
  15. Rosie
  16. Alabama Bound by “Bowlegs”
  17. Jumpin Judy
  18. John Henry
  19. Jumpin Judy by Allen Prothero
  20. Sit Down, Servant by Adie Corbin and Ed Frierson
  21. Levee Camp Holler by John “Black Sampson” Gibson
  22. Track Lining Song by John “Black Sampson” Gibson
  23. Steel Laying Holler by Rochelle Harris
  24. Interview with John Lomax 1933