The 1937 Flood Watch
The 1937 Flood Watch Podcast
"No Ash Will Burn"

"No Ash Will Burn"

#336 / April 12 Podcast

We learned this tune from the late Floodster Emeritus Bill Hoke, who — like many other people — said he first heard it at a folk festival some time in the early 1990s.

It has been about 25 years ago now. Bill stopped off to visit at the Bowen House while on a trek from his Abingdon, Va., home to Dayton, Ohio, to see his dad. We can still picture him there in The Flood band room, picking up Charlie Bowen’s guitar and strumming a chord or two.

“You guys ought to do this song,” he said softly, and started singing:

I have seen rain on a cloudless day,
I have see snows that fell in May ….

We were hooked before he even got to the chorus. “No Ash Will Burn” has been in The Flood’s repertoire ever since.


That memory came rushing back to us last week when our friend David Click mentioned on Facebook how much he has enjoyed the band’s performance of that song over the years.

In a later message to Charlie, David added that while the song is sad, he found a kind of commiseration in the lyrics, an empathy that touched him especially in times of loss and grief.

We understand; the song moves us that way too. For instance, the performance featured in this week’s podcast comes from back in mid-November of last year. It was the first rehearsal we had in the days after we learned of the death of our old buddy and band mate Doug Chaffin.

Doug absolutely loved this song ever since we included it on our 2011 Wade in the Water album. In this track you might hear how we felt a little closer to our dear companion as we sang it in his memory on that cold November night.

About the Song

When Bill Hoke taught us the song a quarter of a century ago, we didn’t even know who wrote it. It was the mid-1990s and the World Wide Web wasn’t yet the thing it is today, so we couldn’t so easily find out such basic facts as writing credits.

Only later did we learn that “No Ash Will Burn” is the work of Muscle Shoals singer/songwriter Walt Aldridge, an Alabaman whose songs over the past 60 years have been recorded by a diverse group of artists, from Lou Reed to Reba McEntire.

Inducted into both the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Aldridge has written chart-busting hits for Ronnie Milsap ("No Gettin' Over Me," 1981), Earl Thomas Conley ("Holding Her and Loving You," 1982), Travis Tritt ("Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde," 2000), and Heartland ("I Loved Her First," 2006).

In the late 1980s, Aldridge also sang lead vocals in the band The Shooters, a country band which charted with seven singles for Epic Records. It was during this creative period that he penned “No Ash Will Burn.”

The song was first recorded on Western Dream, the 1989 debut album of Ranch Romance, a Seattle-based western swing, alternative country and bluegrass band.

Versions of the tune quickly began circulating in folk music circles after Alice Gerrard recorded it in 1994 and Molly O’Brien released it four years later.

A particular favorite of ours is the 2009 rendition by our friend Sallie Sublette and her Idaho-based band, Wild Coyotes, on their Coyote Tracks album.

Our Take on the Tune

Like a long-time running buddy, “No Ash Will Burn” has been with us for so long that it has generated its own store of Flood lore. One of the best “No Ash” stories comes from about 10 years ago at one of our stranger gigs.

It was late May 2013 — about a week before Memorial Day — and after days in the 70s and 80s, the temperature suddenly plunged as we drove north to Fairmont, WV, for the Friday night concert.

It was down to the 50s when we took the stage at the amphitheater at Prickett's Fort State Park, and by the time the show was finished 90 minutes later, the mercury had dropped to 45. The cold, along with a brisk west wind, made for a fairly frigid Flood, but it also produced some laughs.

As we were shivering on stage and Charlie sang the opening lines -- I have seen rain on a cloudless day / I have seen snows that fell in May -- Dave Peyton leaned over and groaned, "Damn straight!" We cracked up and so did the audience.

In this cut, you can hear us rehearsing the song a few days before the big Fairmont Freeze.

The Fairmont Freeze

More Folk Music?

Finally, if you’d like more tunes from The Flood’s folkier files, check out the Folk playlist on our free Radio Floodango music streaming service. Click here to give it a spin.

The 1937 Flood Watch
The 1937 Flood Watch Podcast
Each week The 1937 Flood, West Virginia's most eclectic string band, offers a free tune from a recent rehearsal, show or jam session. Music styles range from blues and jazz to folk, hokum, ballad and old-time. All the podcasts, dating back to 2008, are archived on our website; you and use the archive for free at: