Song of the Week - Apr. 12, 2010 - Cotton's Burning

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Song of the Week - Apr. 12, 2010 - Cotton's Burning

Postby KarenZ » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:49 am

Cotton’s Burning

Tell your captain I have come to claim my dead
Let the flag of truce arise
Richmond’s burning – all the politician’s fled
We are the last men to survive
So you can tell old Jefferson Davis
That his prayers – they cannot save us
Nor can Robert E. Lee’s

Oo- oo - the cotton’s burning
Dixe’s crumbling down
Oo-oo – the tobacco’s turning
There’s a fire in Richmond town

We raised our rifles in the back woods of Tennessee
We rode the rails a thousand miles
Marched through white cotton fields
Eight-hundred men to feed
Some were no more than a child
We wore torn and battered at Antietem
Don’t fire until you see them boys
Then we laid the field down

(Repeat chorus)

We set the streets on fire
We poured the whiskey in the road
And the flames – they rose higher
And then the arsenal exploded….lit up the night, lit up the night…

I am a colonel in the 14th Tennessee
I am a carpenter by trade
Back home I’m gonna build some cradles
I’m tired of laying coffins in graves
When I get home from this
Thousand mile parade
You can tell old Jefferson Davis
That his prayers – they cannot save us
Nor can Robert E. Lee’s

The cotton’s burning
Dixie’s tumbling down
Tobacco’s turning
There’s a fire in Richmond town, town
And I’m a long way from home….home…..

I remember first hearing "Cotton's Burning" at WoodyFest when it was a very new song and being immediately blown away by it. It must have been 2007 because I remember listening to EP perform in the Crystal Theater - the year there was so much rain that the outdoor shows had to be moved inside. Right after the show, EP handed me a CD of his performance so I had a recording of the new song! ... and I played it repeatedly trying to get all the lyrics down. The lyrics changed considerably over the next few weeks/months but it's still one of my favorite songs. (Did I really just say that?) :)

"Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see." -- Ann Patchett in Bel Canto.

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Re: Song of the Week - Apr. 12, 2010 - Cotton's Burning

Postby Patti » Wed Apr 14, 2010 7:45 pm

I love the little history lesson in this song... reminds me listening to Joan Baez singing The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.

The line about the carpenter wanting to build cradles instead of graves gets me every time...
I think I remember Ellis saying he had to take some liberties with history on this song.. He is a civil war history buff , it appears to be accurate to me but what do I know, I'm more of Revolutionary War girl... I just saw Ellis in Lexington, at the National Heritage Museum, I asked him if he felt inspired to write another war song. Part of the discussion that day was about how it was much more popular to write war songs about Vietnam, WWII, more so than Afghanistan. It was said that country music gets away with it more than folk, but with the " tea party group" growing maybe Ellis will be inspired..

I thought when this song was first being performed I read about Ellis asking the audience for "clap offs" to help decide on the title, though I forget what the choices were...
"Embrace what you have in common, celebrate what sets you apart" Ellis Paul

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Re: Song of the Week - Apr. 12, 2010 - Cotton's Burning

Postby Richard + Jela » Fri Apr 16, 2010 8:17 am

I was at that WoodyFest show Karen mentions so that would have been my first time hearing it live. I also talked with Ellis at the Vermont shows in 2008 about the songs for the new CD and at the time he thought that 'Cotton's Burning' might not make the CD cut as the subject matter didn't 'fit' with the rest of the CD.

I suggested that if it didn't fit the CD then maybe it should be a hidden track on it. It is too good a song to 'leave on the cutting room floor' so to speak

I am so pleased therefore that it made the cut as I really like this song; I know that he is very interested in the Civil War so it's perhaps not unexpected that he'd write a song about it.


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