elcome to the Digital Meltd0wn Music Blog. The aim of this blog is to introduce the readers to music that is out of print, commercially unavailable, released under a creative commons license, or with approval by the featured artist. The majority of the music posted here would be considered underground. Don't let that fool you into thinking that the music featured here might be any less enjoyable than that of the mainstream artists you hear on the radio, as this couldn't be further from the truth.
Please keep in mind that the majority of the artists that appear on this blog, along with their respective record labels, are not wealthy and need your support. If you enjoy the material that you find here, please support the artists/labels by purchasing their material afterwards. If you are an artist/label that would prefer to have your material removed from this blog, simply leave me a comment, and I would be more than happy to promptly remove the offending post.
In addition to running this blog, I also work on a few other projects during my spare time. You can find links to those, as well as a few other important links associated with Digital Meltd0wn in the menu bar above.
I have several very unique and important albums that I am very excited about sharing. Unfortunately, once again time is not on my side as of late, and I won't be able to post them all in the time frame that I would prefer to. The first is a glimpse into the prison work system of the not to distant past. Prison Songs: Historical Recordings from Parchman Farm 1947-48 is a reissue of Alan Lomax's legendary album, Negro Prison Songs, originally released on the Tradition label in 1958. It was reissued under the new title by Rounder in 1997; however, it is currently out of print. The recordings were made during Alan Lomax's visit to Mississippi's notorious Parchman Farm state prison in 1947 and on February 9, 1948.
"For those who may not know, the worksong tradition was a practice carried over from Africa, which manifested first in slave plantations and then in the prison work gang. John Lomax, together with his son Alan, began recording these songs in Southern penitentiaries in 1933. In 1947, and again in 1948, Alan returned to Parchman Farm to gather in the songs we have here. So charged with passion are they that claims of a declining tradition make very odd reading. Yet, when I listen to the Lomaxes earlier collections, I have to agree. Pre-war, the ages of the singers was lower and the melodies were richer and more plentiful. Where the present material wins out is in the march of technology. Pre-war equipment was too limited to record the convicts while they worked. Instead, most of the material was gathered after hours, with the singers worn out from performing the very songs the Lomaxes were trying to capture. By 1947, however, the first modern tape recorder was on the market. With this device it was possible to preserve the sound of negro worksong in full flight."In and out" was a common pattern in Southern penal institutions. It developed from a system of race relations and social attitudes moulded in slavery days and dragged into the twentieth century like a feudal relic. The penitentiary was an important element in the suppression of the negro population. Along with lynch law, the Klan and a system of injudiciously administered floggings, the threat of a spell in the pen kept a potentially unruly black populace in a state of servility. The prisons held their share of hard cases, but for most of the inmates, sentences were short, sharp, frequent and brutal, and they were usually meted for trifling misdemeanours.
Impressions of a high turnover of prisoners are supported by these two CDs. Volume 1 is exclusively from Lomax's 1947 recordings and features protagonists with such colourful nicknames as Bama, Tangle Eye, 22, and Hard Hair. Volume 2 is mostly from Lomax's return trip in 1948, by which time additional singers seem to have found their way into the pen. They include Dobie Red, Curry Childress, and 88. The impression is strengthened when one reads John Lomax's reminiscences of collecting songs in Parchman Farm before World War 11. Of the singers he mentions, only Dobie Red and Tangle Eye were in the pen between 1947 and 1948.
So influential was Murderers' Home that the name Parchman Farm has become synonymous with axe wielding convicts roaring ferocious choruses. However, the institution embraced much more than group worksongs and some of this is reflected in the programming. Axe and hoe songs predominate, but there are one or two solo work songs, several field hollers, including Bama's superb Stackerlee, and a couple of blues. There is also an interview, split over two tracks, during which Bama talks about song leading and about his lot as a three time loser caught in the web of the Mississippi penal system. "In and out, in and out, for the last eighteen years." It fades, heart-rendingly, into a mournful holler by another long time prisoner, Tangle Eye
Listening to the lyrics and how they were sung, I form the opinion that the songs were far more about making it through the can than they were about synchronising work. In all these verses you will not find the slightest iota of fantasy or escapism. If there were any would-be lottery winners in Parchman Farm or Angola they do not show up here. Instead the songs are vested with stark reality and sweat. They are the channelling of rage and resentment against the iniquity and brutality and rank injustice of a penal system which was nothing more than the legitimised extension of plantation slavery. All folksongs involve catharsis but, inside the pen, song was the only voice which allowed prisoners to kick against the system. Shared songs did more than alleviate the work, they alleviated the misery." - Fred McCormick
"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
Year of Release: 1958/Reissue 1997 Label: Tradition/Rounder Genre: Field Recording, Folk, Blues Bitrate:
Track List: 1. Jimpson & Group - The Murderer's Home 2. Jimpson & Axe Gang - No More, My Lord 3. B.B. & Group - Old Alabama 4. B.B. & Group - Black Woman 5. Tangle Eye, Fuzzy Red, Hard Hair, & Group - Jumpin' Judy 6. C.B. - Whoa Buck 7. "22" - Prettiest Train 8. "22" & Group - Old Dollar Mamie 9. "22" & Group - It Makes A Long Time Man Feel Bad 10. C.B. & Axe Gang - Rosie 11. Bama - Levee Camp Hollar 12. Bama - What Makes a Work Song Leader (Interview With Bama) 13. "22" With Little Red, Tangle Eye, & Hard Hair - Early in the Mornin' 14. Bama - How I Got in the Penitentiary (Interview With Bama) 15. Tangle Eye - Tangle Eye Blues 16. Bama - Stackerlee 17. Alex - Prison Blues