The Story Behind “The Prettiest Train”
Carl Hauser of The Druids of Stonehenge said of “The Prettiest Train”
“One evening in late 2018, Billy Cross and I were listening to prison work-gang chants from off my old Smithsonian label CD. These were the recordings done by Alan Lomax in 1948 at the Parchman Prison Farm. That storied institution in southern Mississippi was a place where (mostly) black prisoners worked as virtual slaves, hired out by the warden to do jobs that no one else would take, like building railroads through the swamps”.
One of the chants was called "The Prettiest Train." It went:
"The prettiest train
I ever did see
Went from Jackson, Mississippi
Down to New Orleans."
“That's all there was, accompanied by the rhythmic sound of axes chopping wood”.
“I thought it would make a great blues song, played a couple of chord changes, and Billy immediately came up with a beautiful slide riff to it. We both thought David could perform the story, so we wrote a song based on it in a couple of hours. It just got some polishing later. The story of the man who longs for his woman while in jail, but still wants to set her free so that she can survive comes entirely from us, but we owe a huge debt to the Parchman Farm prisoners whose chant inspired us to write the song. And we are in awe of the incredible creativity and humanity they showed in the face of the cruelest imaginable oppression”.
“David's performance is also noteworthy - he was going through very hard times personally when he performed it and the song reminded him of an important loss in his life. So you can actually hear him crying (he's not faking it) on the last lines”.
Inside the Download is the full Druids marketing pack which will give you all the band information. I hope you enjoy the track and I look forward to sending you the new album “American Ghosts” next week,