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.
Johnny Cash: “Long Black Veil”
I could fill this whole series with nothing but Johnny Cash songs of murder, despair, and sorrow, but I’m going to try to limit it to just a few, including this classic live version found on his thematic compilation Murder. If it’s jarring to hear giggles as Johnny sings in the voice of a man executed because he wouldn’t dishonor a woman who could alibi him, well … that’s country.