True Blood, Episode 8: Lyle Lovett's Prison Song and Redemption on a Dallas Hotel Roof

Alan Ball was known for his masterful use of music in Six Feet Under. He's lost none of his touch when it comes to his current HBO series, True Blood - which happens to be set in the Louisiana swamps, not terribly far from Houston. Though we're picking up midway through Season 2, from here on out as each new episode airs, Rocks Off will bring you a short report on the featured music.

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The South continues to rise again on True Blood, as Episode 2.8, "I Will Rise Up," features music from a certain Mr. Lyle Lovett of Klein. The good old boy has quietly built himself a reputation as one of America's finest country songsmiths, and "I Will Rise/Aint No More Cane," from his most recent album, 2007's It's Not Big, It's Large, continues his customary synthesis of originality and tradition. The "I Will Rise Up" half of the song is Lyle's usual brand of brilliance, tinged with the darkness that marked Johnny Cash's later recordings, but it's the "Ain't No More Cane" half that interests Rocks Off the most.

"Aint No More Cane" is a prison work song from the South. (Leadbelly recorded it, if you want to set the proper tone.) The song's main refrain is "Ain't no more cane on the Brazos/ It's all been ground down to molasses." The Brazos River is, of course, one of Texas' four big rivers, and has been featured in many prison songs since it runs by nearly all of the state's oldest prisons. The Brazos has also long held a fascination with Lovett, who has mentioned it in two other songs as well.

Prison work songs are usually about two things: emancipation and redemption. The driving force of the last several episodes of True Blood has been the emotional turmoil of a heartsick 2,000-year-old vampire named Godric. Convinced that vampires, as a race, have failed to evolve and have instead only become more brutal, he offered himself as a public sacrifice to a church dedicated to the extermination of his kind.

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In some way, he hoped that his suicide would somehow help ease vampire/human relations. Instead, there was a bloodbath as his friends and loved ones stormed the church to rescue him, and things went from bad to worse when the church responded with a suicide attack that left many human and vampires dead.

In the end, Godric decides to commit suicide by sunlight anyway. As he stands on the roof of a hotel in Dallas, he asks Sookie (Anna Paquin) how God will punish him. Sookie tells him that God forgives, He doesn't punish. She begins to cry as the sun rises - Godric had saved her from a rapist in the previous episode - and Godric dies smiling at the idea that after his long un-life, he should meet his end comforted by human tears. And so the credits roll and the dark notes begin.

Lovett tells us that though we be dead men, we will rise. Amen.

"I Will Rise Up" repeats at 8 p.m. tonight on HBO.

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