John Law Burned Down the Liquor Sto'

Album: Down From The Mountain (2001)
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Songfacts®:

  • Chris Thomas King, who played bluesman Tommy Johnson in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, wrote this song for the documentary concert Down From The Mountain, where he performed it with Colin Linden. The concert was held at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on May 24, 2000, soon after O Brother made its film festival debut. Down From The Mountain features various roots musicians performing songs either from the film or inspired by it. In the movie, Chris Thomas King sings the Skip James song "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues." He was the only actor whose real voice was used on the soundtrack.

    The Down From The Mountain soundtrack was released soon after the film was released in theaters in December 2000.
  • This song is written from the perspective of a moonshiner in the 1930s, when O Brother, Where Art Thou? takes place. "John Law" is the authority figure, "the man," who enforces prohibition. He lets the workers have their whiskey after a day in the fields until times get tight, then he puts an end to it and sends the moonshiner to jail. Fortunately, the judge has a taste of his corn whisky, and orders him to make some for him as the fine.
  • King performed this at Carnegie Hall on June 13, 2001 as part of a "Down From The Mountain" concert celebrating the music of O Brother, Where Art Thou? Performers included Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and the Fairfield Four.

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