Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day of Rest (?) The Unquiet Grave and "story songs"

I've been so busy, it hardly seems like a "murder" blog at all.  So I've decided to post something a little darker for this Sunday's Day of Rest.  Plus, it is October after all.

I've never been a fan of syrupy puppy-eyed love songs, so what I like about  The Unquiet Grave is that it succeeds at being romantic ballad and a ghost story.   A little sweet, a little obsessive, a little sad, and a little spooky.

   ‘The wind doth blow today, my love,
 And a few small drops of rain;
 I never had but one true-love,
 In cold grave she was lain.

 ‘I’ll do as much for my true-love
 As any young man may;
 I’ll sit and mourn all at her grave
 For a twelvemonth and a day.’
        The twelvemonth and a day being up,
 The dead began to speak:
 ‘Oh who sits weeping on my grave,
 And will not let me sleep?’
       ‘’Tis I, my love, sits on your grave,
 And will not let you sleep;
 For I crave one kiss of your clay-cold lips,
 And that is all I seek.’
       ‘You crave one kiss of my clay-cold lips;
 But my breath smells earthy strong;
 If you have one kiss of my clay-cold lips,
 Your time will not be long.
        ‘’Tis down in yonder garden green,
 Love, where we used to walk,
 The finest flower that ere was seen
 Is withered to a stalk.
       ‘The stalk is withered dry, my love,
 So will our hearts decay;
 So make yourself content, my love,
 Till God calls you away.’

The first version I ever heard of this song, was Jean Ritchie's a cappella version.  I was unable to find a version of it on the web, but I can't recommend it enough.

The Dubliners.  I think that this might tie with Ritchie's as my favorite version of the song.  Love those tin whistles!

What I love about traditional ballads, is the stories they tell.  Most modern music doesn't do that anymore, even when it comes to "indie" bands.  Writing a "story song" can get you accused of not being "honest" or "personal"  i.e. you'd rather make up something then explore your innermost something-or-other.  I disagree, I think that story songs can be very personal, even if the person singing them wasn't the original writer.  You bring your personal experience to them and your own beliefs.  If that wasn't true, I don't think that Luke Kelly's voice would still make me cry.

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