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