"Blackjack County Chain" released off Special Edition Reflectere
Back in the early 2000's I discovered Del McCoury through an album he put out with Steve Earle in 1999 titled The Mountain.
The Mountain was so good it sent me on a mission to pick up as many Del McCoury CD's as I could, and one of the first one's I found was Cold Hard Facts (1996 with Jerry Douglas on dobro). On that CD was a cover of Red Lane's "Blackjack County Chain," and it just haunted me.
The song tells the story of a black chain gang rising up against a sadistic Sheriff in Georgia, with a violent climax that has the prisoners beating the Sheriff to death with their "35 pounds of Blackjack County chain ." At the time, I was unaware of how many other famous artists had covered the song, and in doing more research, I finally chased it back to the original 1967 version that Willie Nelson put out.
Apparently, Red Lane had first offered the song to Charley Pride, who turned it down given the violent subject matter--which he (understandably) deemed too controversial--especially given his position of being a pioneering black country singer.
Willie Nelson picked it up and put it out, and it became an iconic song with an interesting intersection of Civil Rights and country music. Red Lane released his version in 1971, and it's now one of my favorite versions--unique rhythm and a dazed psychedelic vibe.
The version I released here on Reflectere is stripped down with just two guitars and my dobro, and was one of the first tracks I recorded on this project (as I mentioned in an earlier post, I had started out Reflectere thinking it would be just a few guitars and vocals, but the album took on a different feel as things progressed--this track is an artifact of that earlier concept).
Hope you enjoy, and thanks for listening/downloading! This Sunday, April 19th, I'll be releasing the fifth song on Reflectere, "Mama You've Been on My Mind" by Bob Dylan. More on that tune in a few days...