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Asa Martin, vocal & guitar; Jim Gaskin, fiddle; Earl Barnes, guitar; Grady “Buz” Brazeale, autoharp - Harlan County Tragedy

from Survey of Traditional Music, Vol. 5: Grown on American Soil by Field Recorders' Collective



For an in-depth discussion of this track, see the album notes: tinyurl[dot]com/V5NATnotes


Two old boys from Harlan town, they was Perry County bound
The law caught them upon their way, and they bound these poor boys down.
The jailer man he wouldn't turn them loose, he kept those boys tied down.
"Turn me loose," said little Sam Ward, "or I'll tear your jailhouse down."

Now these two men from Harlan town was very bad men, you see.
When you met them on the street, they were as bad as Frankie Dupree.
They quarreled while in the prison about some things that had happened before.
One boy said to the other one, "Now let's not quarrel no more."

"Well," he said, "I guess you're right, my boy, but you called me a liar
You'll never go back to the old coal mine, my boy, you're gonna
They turned around, walked ten spaces, pulled their guns and fired
When this poor boy looked around, Lord, he'd shot and killed his pard'.

He fell down, he hit the curb and he lay there on the street.
When they picked that poor boy up, Lord, he couldn't stand on his feet.
The sheriff rushed down, picked him up, and he placed him in the can,
Said, "I guess you'll be good now 'cause this was made by man."

But he escaped on a Wednesday night, they caught him on the Perry County line.
Said "I'm sorry for you, my boy, but you're gonna pull out your time."
But he escaped again on a Saturday night, I never did know how,
But he'll never leave the jail no more 'cause he's in the graveyard now.

So listen to my story, boys, if you don't want graveyard bound
Keep your tongue right in your mouth when you visit Harlan town.


from Survey of Traditional Music, Vol. 5: Grown on American Soil, released August 7, 2023
Recorded by Mark Wilson and Gus Meade, Irvine, KY, 12/72.


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