Joe Pug by Adrian Bischoff
Certain phrases skew themselves toward certain types of music. “I Will Follow” has a tendency to be in pop music–think Little Peggy March’s “I Will Follow Him” or Death Cab for Cuties’s “I Will Follow You into the Dark”; for whatever reason, “Bury Me” has a tendency to be in folk music. Perhaps its the genre’s overall fascination with death. Death and bad-man ballads are common in traditional folk music from the American South, a tradition that carried into country, bluegrass, folk-revival and the various forms of music that have roots in that music. “Folsom Prison Blues” and “O Death” are just two of many examples.
So perhaps its just in folk music’s DNA to look toward death. The idea of death and requests about one’s burial aren’t exclusive to folk music, of course, but many folk songs, including the three below, have these as common themes.
’60s folk revival revival:
I loved the live version of this song so it was one of the first I listened to when I got Joe Pug’s (myspace) latest release and first full length, Messenger. The record version doesn’t disappoint and I think it stands as one of Pug’s greatest lyrical achievements since “Hymn #101”.
One of my favorite songs, this comes from Lomax’s 1958 recordings from the Ozarks. Almeda Riddle has a classic voice; perhaps that’s understating it: Almeda Riddle has a perfect old-timey ballad voice. This song, which came from a broadsheet, has a classic tune and is dripping with melancholy both lyrically and musically.
This song sits solidly within old-timey balladry and, as I mentioned, is a perfect example of the style that was common and appreciated.
Otis Gibbs (myspace) is an artist that I came across when I was DJing at KZSU. This song is a nice waltz that really hits its stride in the chorus, where the melody is backed with lush and lovely harmonies.
His style is a bit hard to describe, drawing on elements of country, particularly classic country, but also displaying elements of modern folk singer-songwriter music and old-time dance music. In the end he creates something that is thoroughly not Nashville, not pop country, but still identifiable as country.
Bonus (cowboy ballad):