“Can'cha Line 'Em”


Work song/shout, with chorus, "Ho, boys, can'cha line em? (x3) See Eloise go linin' track." Many of verses are on religious themes ("If I could I surely would Stand on the rock where Moses stood"; "Mary, Marthy, Luke, and John, all... dead and gone")


Since this is one of those wonderful songs that is "adapted and arranged" (usual translation: "completely fouled up") by the Lomaxes, I can't tell if it comes from the same roots as "Can't You Line It?" There are almost no similarities beyond the titles, but that doesn't mean much. - RBW

Looking at the lyrics of the Prothero field recording, they seem to have almost nothing in common with, "Can't You Line It?" as summarized in the latter's description. I'd guess the songs are, at best, distantly related. - PJS

The Darling "Jack the Rabbit" text looks rather different (indeed, the feeling is almost closer to "Grizzely Bear") -- but it has a line similar to this one, so I'm sticking it here for now, more in desperation than anything else.

Cohen's "Track Linin'" song also has the "Jack the rabbit" line, so it files here on hte same basis.

According to Cohen, this is one of only two railroad worksongs released on a commercial 78 (the other being "Section Gang Song"). He thinks they may be the earliest worksong recordings of any sort. - RBW

Cross references


  • Henry Hankins, "Lining Track" (AFS 2946 A1, 1939; on LC61)
  • Allen Prothero, "Track-Lining Song" (AFS 179 A1; on LC8)
  • T. C. I. Section Crew, "Track Linin'" (Paramount 12478, 1927)


  1. Lomax-FSUSA 78, "Can'cha Line 'Em" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 14-17, "Tie-Shuffling Chant" (1 text with extra verses, 1 tune)
  3. Cohen-LSRail, p. 646, "Track Linin'" (1 text)
  4. Botkin-RailFolklr, p. 446, "Track Lining Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Courlander-NFM, p. 97, (no title, but compare "The Captain Can't Read" on the previous page) (1 text)
  6. Darling-NAS, p. 328, "Jack the Rabbit" (1 text)
  7. Roud #10070
  8. BI, LxU078


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1933 (recording, Allen Prothero)
Found in: US(Ap,So)