The Civil Wars: Barton Hollow Meaning
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Barton Hollow Lyrics
But that's the least of all my fears
Ooh, underneath the water
It's not Alabama clay
That gives my trembling hands away
Please forgive me father
Ain't going back to Barton Hollow
Devil gonna follow me e'er I...
anonymous May 7th, 2011 5:56am report
I'm sorry but I think this goes WAY beyond murder. This sound like one of the old school country songs where it became VERY clear that the interpreter was talking about having sold his soul to the devil.
"I'm a dead man walking" - I'm here, but I may as well be dead already.
"Devil gonna follow me e'ver I go" - It's a well known myth that those who sell their soul to the devil will be tormented until the time it comes times for him to collect.
"Won't do me no good washing in the river" - Even baptism can't save me.
"Can't no preacher man save my soul" - Not even the pastor can help me now.
"Did that full moon force my hand" - Well known fact that magic is supposedly stronger during a full moon.
"If I die before I wake,
I know the Lord my soul won't take" - So, who do you think will collect the soul?!
C'mon guys... This is 100% about selling your soul to the devil for something in return. This type of music is not a big stranger for the south of the US...
kevin.goodman.goodman Sep 24th, 2012 9:08pm report
Based on the lyrics in combination with video this song is about a man killing a woman...the woman haunts him.
"It's not alabama clay that gives my trembling hands away." refers to the illicit burial.
In the music video at 1:35 shows a very brief clip of Joy getting hit in the head from behind.
At 2:04 in the video he is digging in the ground with a spade.
"Ain't no preacher man goin save his soul" not because he sold his sould but because what he did was so bad he is haunted by it.
"Miles and miles in my bare feet still can't lay me to sleep" sung by joy seems to imply that perhaps she was chased before killed and now can't be put to sleep because she is haunting John Paul.
"I'm a dead man walking" this chorus isn't representative of a dual--it's a single man haunted by a woman he killed.
"aint goin back to barton hollow" because something really bad happened there. But it evidently doesn't matter because it's so bad it's "going to follow" him wherever he goes.
anonymous Apr 9th, 2012 4:43pm report
It means that you can't go back to where you have been because of many bad mistakes and even god can't help you now the people won't forgive you it wasn't the full moon's bad effect making you crazy and walking through the river can't wash away your trail that police follow and you and dead man walking means you are going to die because of your sin but please forgive me father means that god can give them eternal life if they ask for his mercy
anonymous Apr 3rd, 2012 4:29pm report
They were paid for murder, then sunk the body. Running means running from their sins, though they know that they will pay for their crime in the hereafter, hence dead man walking.
anonymous Jan 26th, 2012 1:53pm report
The song is clearly about a man being paid to kill someone and after he killed that person he hid the body at the bottom of a river. This one verse of the song explains it all "Did that full moon force my hand? Or that un marked hundred grand? Ooh, underneath the water Please forgive me father."
anonymous Jan 10th, 2012 1:55pm report
Seems that the lyrics are pointing towards sin for sure I see many thinking it's murder but it seems to me it may be the guilt of adultery,
"I'm a dead man walking here
But that's the least of all my fears
Ooh, underneath the water"
This points to a fear deeper then death, for most that is a loss of love or pain caused to those you love, and underneath the water could imply the idea of thinking through the mistake in the shower while trying to erase any tangible evidence.
"It's not Alabama clay
That gives my trembling hands away
Please forgive me father"
The begging for forgiveness and the inability to hide trembling hands seems to point towards a true sorrow and knowledge that forgiveness is not easily gained.
"Ain't going back to Barton Hollow
Devil gonna follow me e'er I go
Won't do me no good washing in the river
Can't no preacher man save my soul"
A hollow can be simply the name of a location or an unfilled space or depression, which could contain the subtext of the empty feelings involved in adultery and the depression felt afterwards as well. the inabilty of a preacher to save the soul also leads me to beleive that it is the guilt of adultery because it seems that those who commit this act are never able to forgive themselves for the act.
anonymous Nov 7th, 2011 11:32pm report
I believe they are talking about murder or maybe selling their soul because im from around that area and the tennesse river runs through there and maybe they ssunk the body in the river and yes somepeople still do get baptized in the river or creek but barton hallow is not a fun place to go at night me and my friends have been going ghost hunting for the past 3 years and we went there this year and you get a bad feeling wen your there there are slave graveyards about 15 miles from there in a cowpasture and you get the same feeling they might be talking about a legend or something like that theres alot of those around here theres jeese james treasure supposed to be buried in crooked oak somewhere the hundred grand mught be from a legend simalar to that
anonymous Oct 28th, 2011 10:46am report
Not worthy of forgiveness.
anonymous Oct 10th, 2011 10:35am report
The 'Alabama clay' and Barton Hollow refer to a place near where the songwriter comes from.
Heket Guthrie Sep 19th, 2011 9:26pm report
It's about feeling as if you aren't worthy of going home. Barton Hollow, Alabama is a real place. It seems as if the singer(s) feels that he's lost himself, changed, or sinned to the point where his childhood home won't accept him anymore. This lack of a home makes him feel like a "dead man walking".
In Alabama, and I'm assuming the rest of the South, your childhood home is something that defines a piece of you, and is generally referenced with pride. The idea of being turned away by those people and that place is heart breaking.
As for Alabama clay? I would say he's talking about how PERVASIVE that stuff is. It's such a HUGE part of Alabama. Kind of like our "southern morals". So, he's actually saying it's not only an Alabama perspective that portrays me as guilty, or as a sinner. He himself feels he has sinned beyond forgiveness.
anonymous Aug 21st, 2011 8:59pm report
I think it means that they committed so many sins that they feel that they are far if not capable of salvation.
anonymous Jun 28th, 2011 6:23pm report
I think the song is about murder for hire. It's their conscious they are running from and the murder took place in Barton Hollow. The devil=their conscious.
anonymous Jun 7th, 2011 6:22pm report
Well, this DOES sound a lot like old mountain music from the Appalachias.
A dead man walking is a term used to describe men on death row in the south, so I don't think that that part has anything to do with religion but the fact that it states that it's the least of all his fears suggest a terror of the afterlife.
The full moon reference definately has to do with the belief that a full moon can make people act differently.
I think that the Alabama clay, since John White is from Alabama, simply means dirt on his hands, possibly after burying and murdering someone. They could have done this because they were hired for the unmarked hundred grand or because they stole it.
I believe the underneath the water part either has to do with a body underneath the river, or the storyteller under the water.
Most of the song, however, is definitely speaking of their wanting to be forgiven but not believing they could be, and running from the law. Obviously walking and running and running for miles, please forgive me Father, devil and preacher references, and the old prayer hint to that.
Overall, I think this is a story of someone killing another for money and burying them near a river or putting them in the river. They might try to wash their hands but then they begin to run, trying to avoid the law. They know that if they're caught they'll be put to death, so they worry about going to Hell after they die. Also, they decide never to return to that place and now they believe that the devil is going to follow them.
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