“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.

“Angel of Death” [Dark Country: Songs For October]

Series introduction and other entries.

Hank Williams: “Angel of Death”

Hank again (it always comes back to Hank), with a down-tempo meditation on death asking a simple question: “are you ready?” Like so much country music, the dark themes aren’t just for kicks: they’re a serious warning for people to prepare to meet the Lord, just like it says in “the great book of John.”

 

“The Ghost in This Guitar” [Dark Country: Songs For October]

Series Intro:

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.

Keith Urban: “The Ghost in This Guitar”

Urban is the second-best picker in country music (Brad Paisley is the first), and he shows he chops on this one.  He’s also a fine singer and songwriter, as this very early song of musical possession shows.

I have no idea what the story is with the accompanying video.

“Hurt” [Dark Country: Songs For October]

Series Intro:

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: “Hurt”

Trent Reznor’s mopey emo posturing is transformed by some magical Johnny alchemy into the most powerful cover version of any song, ever.  Period. (Stop it. Just … stop. Don’t argue. It’s not that other one you’re thinking of.)

This is Johnny’s life bared and raw, sung in the way only an old man who has lost almost everything can sing. This is loss–real loss, which can only really mean anything against a background of a life lived and a full and vital faith such as Johnny had.

The performance itself is amazing. The music video–featuring old footage of Johnny and June intercut with him performing in the ruins of the Johnny Cash museum as Roseanne looks on sadly–is utterly devastating.

Johnny Cash. Damn, man: you were good.

“Welcome to Hell” [Dark Country: Songs For October]

Series Intro:

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.

Trace Adkins: “Welcome to Hell”

Satan welcomes Osama bin Laden to hell. Oh Trace, never change.

No sir, “There ain’t no virgins here.”