The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Some Dirty Rounder Took My Jelly Roll

Somewhere there's probably a train song I don't like. But I haven't heard it yet.

Doc Watson's "The Train That Carried My Girl from Town" has been one of my favorites for a long time. It's track #18 on my Best of Doc Watson: 1964-1968 CD which is practically worn out from repeated plays.

Doc apparently learned it from the recordings of white guitarist Frank Hutchison (who seems to have learned it from an unknown black musician); check out this you tube of the original Hutchison recording if you're interested.

At the beginning, it sounds like the speaker in the song misses his girl real bad--he says he's so desperate he wishes the train would wreck. You might think he's crazy in love with her and wants her back with him, but as the song progresses, it becomes clear that he's mad, angry. And it's because his girl has run off with another man.

Now, a man's bound to get upset if some "dirty rounder" takes his "jelly roll." And to make things worse for the poor guy, his girl also "had her hand in his money sack." No wonder he's so pissed off.

The flat picking is unbelievable. Phenomenal. It's in a class by itself. You can have your Santanas and your Claptons, and your Richards, I'll take Doc in his prime anytime. The driving beat and the repeated licks and runs on the lower strings suggest the power and speed of the train (and perhaps the pounding he'd give the both of them if he caught them).

Lord a'mercy, this music almost makes me want to get up and do a little buck dance. Almost.


  1. I'm glad you linked to Hutchison's version for comparison. No offense, but I like Mr. Hutchison's playin' better, bein' as how I'm an old rocker and the man's bottleneck work rings certain bells with me. But both versions are worthy!

  2. No offense taken, Buck. I like that old slide sound as well, and Hutchison is really good. And regarding the vocal, if I didn't know better, I say it was a black bluesman singing on that record. But I do like flatpicking, especially when done by somebody like Doc who plays so that you hear every single note cleanly no matter how fast the song is.

  3. >>>Somewhere there's probably a train song I don't like

    Casey Jones by the Grateful Dead. hate that song. Makes me wanna grind my face on a belt sander.

  4. I see yer point, Dan. And I agree about Mr. Hutchison sounding the way he does.

    BTW... I've come to the conclusion Inno wouldn't wanna take a long road trip with me. He hates everythang I like. ;-)