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:
Del McCoury: “Eli Renfro”
“Eli Renfro killed his knife with a long sharp Bowie knife.”
So Steve Martin’s wrong: you can play a sad song on the banjo.
Sending this one out to my pal Anna, who loves her some jaunty murder/ghost pickin’ music.