We Don't Grow Tobacco

Album: Carry Me Back (2012)
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This song puts to use the African-American string-band talents that Ketch Secor picked up from the great fiddler Joe Thompson, who also mentored the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The song discusses harsh working conditions faced by migrant farm workers, but turns audience expectations on their head when it then discusses the harsher reality of the worker's lives that results from the tobacco industry collapsing.

    "I'm a utilitarian," Ketch Secor said in Paste. "I want to see America work. I don't necessarily want to see smokestacks blowing soot, but I don't want those fields where North Carolina and Virginia meet to lie fallow either. We don't want to be itinerant wanderers on the chain gang or the railroad, but what if it's better than what we did before and better than what we're doing now? There are no easy answers."
  • Old Crow Medicine Show members have actually farmed tobacco as a way to give their music authenticity. "To write a song like that you have to spend a little time in those fields," Ketch Secor said. "We did, and we were informed by that experience. The whole band worked one summer, $5 an hour, bringing in some of the last tobacco on the backside of Beech Mountain. Sure, we were growing something poisonous, but we got some good songs out of it, just as Dock Boggs and Merle Travis got some good songs out of the coal mines."
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