Dark Country: Songs For October

October is a month of lengthening shadows and stirring shades, as the chill creeps in, all things green turn beautiful colors before dying, and the dark presses ever closer.

Country and traditional music captures darkness the way no other genre really does. Songs of loss, damnation, violence, madness, murder, suicide, and terrors of both this world and the next are all shot through with a rich vein of pathos and old time religion.

I have a playlist where I accumulate “dark country” songs. Sometimes they are outright supernatural stories such as “Eli Renfro” or “Beaches of Cheyenne,” while others are songs of despair or loss like “Hurt” and “The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake.” Over the next month, I’m going to try to share one of these a day, starting with what I consider the most haunting song ever recorded, because everyone should be a little bit miserable in October:

Alison Krauss: “Jacob’s Dream”

If this doesn’t give you chills, you should probably check your pulse. This woman’s voice is one of the treasures of our time. (Oddly enough, her early reputation was made as a virtuoso fiddler at the age of 10. Her voice matured gradually.)

The story told in the song is known as Lost Children of the Alleghenies: George and Joseph Cox (ages 7 and 5), who disappeared in the woods and kicked off a massive search only to be found (as the lore goes) by the dream of a local farmer.

Beauty and sorrow are such a powerful mix. Johnny Cash, for example, would have imbued this song with a deep gravitas. Alison Krauss, on the other hand, imbues it with a profound sense of tragedy that resonates all the more because of the lightness and delicacy (not to mention the sheer skill) of her vocal line.



Available at Amazon with AutoRip

[Part of this post is republished from a couple years ago. I left the comments below.]

A Novena For Asthma Sufferers

St. Bernadette Soubirous contracted cholera as a child and afterwards suffered from asthma for the rest of her life. It almost certainly contributed to her death. Thus, St. Bernadette is a good choice as the patron saint of those suffering from asthma and other diseases of the lung.

A recent medical crisis prompted me to write the following Novena for Asthmatics, and I thought I’d share it. I don’t tend to like fussy novenas, so this one is short and sweet. Add as many thees and thous and Memorares as you see fit. bernadette4

A Novena to St. Bernadette For Asthma and Other Respiratory Ailments

St. Bernadette, you felt the struggle to breathe throughout your short life, and thus know the suffering of those who have asthma and other diseases of the lung. Our Lady gave you the gift of a vision, and from that vision burst a spring of healing water that washed away the pain of thousands. Please join us in prayer to the Blessed Mother and her Son, to bring healing and comfort to [N], so that [she/he] may breathe freely again. We ask this through the immaculate heart of the Virgin Mary, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

Our Father
Hail Mary
Glory Be

Lost Sherlock Holmes Film Discovered


William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes

A long lost silent film starring William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes has been discovered and will premier at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. The find, made a few weeks ago at the Cinémathèque Française, is one of the most important discoveries in both Holmesiana and silent film that I can recall.

The film marks the only recorded appearance of the legendary William Gillette performance as Holmes. Gillette introduced the bent-stem pipe to Holmes lore, and more fully evoked the original Sidney Paget illustrations by wearing a deerstalker cap and using a large magnifying glass and violin as props. All subsequent stage and film depictions of Holmes can trace some element back to Gillette.

Conan Doyle had tired of Holmes and killed the character off in 1893, only to find himself short of cash. He made a deal with Gillette to bring the character to the stage. Gillette studied the stories and wrote a play that became  huge hit, further cementing the success of Holmes.

Until now, no filmed version of his performance has ever been seen. This version was made for Essanay Studios in 1916.

Note: The light blogging for the past week has been due to a family health crisis that is now, thank God, finally passing.