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.
The Bloody Jug Band: “Chained to the Bottom”
I wasn’t sure about The Bloody Jug Band at first, but they’re a good band with a gothic take on American roots music. And they make a convincing case for the modern musical potential washboard and jug. It’s not quite country, but it’s certainly not really rock or blues either. It’s kind of an Americana Alice Cooper, and I do love me some Alice. This one is about the damned trying to escape from a chain gang in hell, which makes it, well … dark country. Try it out.
And here’s a bonus: