Diggin’: Out of Jail

inNewson March 28, 2013

AlgiaMaeListen: Out of Jail

Algia Mae Hinton is best known as a skilled guitarist and buck dancer. She often would combine these two to create a show-stopping performance. Perhaps that’s why “Out of Jail,” a track that she recorded in 1998 for Honey Babe, her album with us, is so striking. It’s a rare example of Algia performing on the five-string banjo, which she likely learned from her large family that played a variety of instruments.

“Out of Jail” gets an unhurried start, with someone (perhaps Taj Mahal, Lightnin’ Wells or Tim Duffy who were present during the recording sessions) tapping his or her foot as Algia says she is not in town to talk or sing but to get her baby out of jail. She then launches into a rousing banjo rendition of the popular song. The only time she parts from the mainly instrumental track is to pepper the last 30 seconds or so of the song with a few phrases. An old country tune originally written and played by Karl Davis and Harty Taylor during the ‘30s, Algia takes a different approach 60 years later.

The tune is probably best known through the Everly Brothers’ version, which showcases the pair’s trademark smooth and angelic vocals. The song is about an old woman coming to get her son out of jail and then dying in his arms as soon as he’s free. It just works coming from Algia, who herself has faced hardship over the years. When her husband died in 1965, Algia was forced to raise her seven children alone by working long hours on the farm. In 1984, just after playing Carnegie Hall, her house burned to the ground. In the process she lost all of her possessions, which included her guitars and family heirlooms. Algia has a resilient spirit, however, and has worked through the difficult times to keep the music alive.

– Margot

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