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Prison Songs

Prison Songs examines the lives of the prisoners of the Mississippi State Penitentiary in the late 1940s, by reimagining the work songs recorded there.

You can hear all the submissions to the project, and all of the original prison songs in full here:

Where the reimagined piece has its own title, the name of the original prison song is given in brackets.

The Mississippi State Penitentiary is the oldest prison in the USA, founded in 1901, and was and is known by its inmates as “Parchman Farm”. As well as its history as a prison, thanks to Alan Lomax’s pioneering work, it is also an important location in the history of field recording as a practice.

From ‘Eighteen Hammers’ to ‘No More My Lawd’, these songs are a moving portrait of prison life, and defiant statements of hope and unity in the face of appalling conditions. Here, 30 sound artists from as far afield as Brazil, Turkey, Australia and the USA bring their own lives and experiences to bear on reimagining these songs.


released May 10, 2016