Mark Rubin: The Jew of Oklahoma, a New Orleans-based multi-instrumentalist, ties an injustice in Atlanta's history to an early country and old time music star with "The Murder of Leo Frank."
"It's not a story too many folks know about," Rubin says. "Leo Frank was accused of the murder of the 13 year old Mary Phagan at the pencil factory he worked at in Atlanta, Georgia in 1915. A version of sordid details of which were outlined in a ballad by the popular singer Fiddlin' John Carson, but Carson's story did not reflect the truth of the matter--that Frank was innocent and that he was framed by Jim Conley, widely understood to be the actual murderer. And though many these days idolize Fiddlin' John Carson, few are aware of his virulent anti-Semitism and active participation in promotion of the lynching of Frank. Hopefully my tale will set a few records straight. Frank was posthumously pardoned in 1986, though never formally absolved. Justice remains elusive to this day."
As Rubin mentions, Carson helped rally public opposition of Frank with the slanted murder ballad "Little Mary Phagan." One version of the song was written in anger after Georgia Governor John Marshall Slaton commuted Frank's death sentence to a life sentence.
Frank was kidnapped from jail by a group of armed men after the governor's decision and lynched in Phagan's hometown of Marietta.
The song's from Rubin's forthcoming album The Triumph of Assimilation (out June 1 on his own Rubinchik Records).
"I just want a place at the table with other disenfranchised groups now getting their voices heard," he explains in a press release. "I'm hoping that this record can help create a safe place for American Jewish people to be Jewish, to be American, to be Southern -- and not have to explain themselves."
Rubin first made a name for himself in the '80s and '90s as a member of the punk and bluegrass-inspired band Killbilly. He later joined banjo player Danny Barnes in Austin as The Bad Livers' bassist and tuba player.
He crossed Yiddish culture with roots music styles on prior Mark Rubin: The Jew of Oklahoma albums Southern Discomfort (2015) and Songs For The Hangman's Daughter (2017).