There was a camp town man, used to plow and sing
And he loved that mule and the mule loved him
When the day got long as it does about now
I'd hear him singing to his mule cow
Calling, "Come on my sweet old girl, and I'll bet the whole damn world
That we're gonna make it yet to the end of the row"

Singing "Hard times ain't gonna rule my mind
Hard times ain't gonna rule my mind, Bessie
Hard times ain't gonna rule my mind no more"

Said it's a mean old world, heavy in need
And that big machine is just picking up speed
And we're supping on tears, and we're supping on wine
We all get to heaven in our own sweet time
So come all you Asheville boys and turn up your old-time noise
And kick 'til the dust comes up from the cracks in the floor

Singing, "Hard times ain't gonna rule my mind, brother
Hard times ain't gonna rule my mind
Hard times ain't gonna rule my mind no more"

But the camp town man, he doesn't plow no more
I seen him walking down to the cigarette store
Guess he lost that knack and he forgot that song
Woke up one morning and the mule was gone
So come on, you ragtime kings, and come on, you dogs, and sing
And pick up a dusty old horn and give it a blow

Playing, "Hard times ain't gonna rule my mind, honey
Hard times ain't gonna rule my mind, sugar
Hard times ain't gonna rule my mind no more"


Lyrics submitted by pomegranatesROCK, edited by smallwonderrobot, GDW

"Hard Times" as written by Gillian Howard Welch David Todd Rawlings

Lyrics © Wixen Music Publishing

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Time (The Revelator) song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentI think Paega's right on the money here. This song seems like Gillian's answer to her critics who question her "Appalachian authenticity" because of the fact she grew up as a California valley girl. "Who could know, if I'm a traitor? Time's the Revelator"...i.e...only time will tell if her songs will stand up to the classics of Ralph Stanley, Carter Family, etc...

    The line about the "Fortune Lady" could be a reference to Emmylou Harris, who was the first major artist to record one of Welch's songs (Orphan Girl). But maybe not ;)

    The line "watch the waves and move the faders" seems like a direct reference to recording in a digital type (Pro Tools) environment, where the audio waveforms actually move across the computer screen, and the faders are the volume sliders on the mixing console. This once again points out the collision between "then" (when records were sung into one mic, straight to acetate disk) and "now". But waves also serve as a double reference, with their more obvious meaning being the California ocean.

    The last two lines are particularly revealing, and are sung (especially live) with quite an edgy, somewhat bitter tone. "Queen of fakes, and imitator"...almost as if those are the vicious words coming straight out of a critic's mouth.

    This is a heck of a song, lyrically AND melodically. David Rawlings has one of the keenest sence of harmony I've ever heard. He perfectly comlements Gillian on this tune.
    jtharrison October 19, 2005   Link

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