“The Man Comes Around” [Dark Country: Songs For October]

Series introduction and other entries.

Johnny Cash: “The Man Comes Around”

Really, only one guy could have the final slot in this series: the man who made dark country his motif by dressing all in black. I wanted to end on a note of  hope, and Johnny’s song about the Last Judgement is the perfect way to go. It just doesn’t get any better.

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“The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake” [Dark Country: Songs For October]

Series introduction and other entries.

Bill Monroe: “The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake”

Mr Bill was asked once about the allegorical elements of this song, which appears to be about parents sending children off into the world to be tempted by the devil and lured to damnation by sin. His answer (and I’m paraphrasing from memory) was something like: “Well, there’s lots of snakes in the woods where we lived, and sometimes one would bite a girl and she’d die. That’s what it’s about.”

Okay then.

“Down From Dover” [Dark Country: Songs For October]

Series introduction and other entries.

Dolly Parton: “Down From Dover”

The one and only Dolly, with one of her most poignant songs, about a woman left pregnant and abandoned by her lover. Controversial in its time, she later recut it for her bluegrass album Little Sparrow. The later version is superior and adds a verse, but I can’t find it to embed.

“All My Tears” [Dark Country: Songs For October]

Series introduction and other entries.

Emmlyou Harris: “All My Tears”

It all began with Emmylou for me. A friend told me to listen to Ballad of Sally Rose, and that was the first time I took country seriously. I wanted her in this series somewhere, but which song? Some of her songs, like “Boulder to Birmingham,” touch on dark subjects so gently they hardly count. “All My Tears” from her pivotal album “Wrecking Ball”is a song of both sadness and hope in salvation, while “Deeper Well” is a harrowing song of desperation and addiction. I’m going to add “The Road” as well, since it’s a bittersweet meditation on the loss of her mentor, the marvelous Gram Parsons, and I just like it.

“3 Shades of Black” [Dark Country: Songs For October]

Series introduction and other entries.

“3 Shades of Black”: Hank Williams III

This is darker than most, and Hank 3 seems to kind of enjoy it that way. I’m less struck by the lyrics than I am by the eerie resemblance of his voice his grandfather’s. The song certainly not to every taste, and lacks the moral core both his father and grandfather put at the heart of their darkest songs, but it’s interesting to see a third generation of Williams shaking up the country formula.