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Posts Tagged ‘Carter Family’

Caught up in the rapture

May 21st, 2011 5 comments

The world is ending today. In fact, it might end before I get to post this, or before you get to download these five songs. It’s the day of Rapture. And we tend to get a lot of those these days. Yesterday Any Minor Dude said to me: “You can’t predict the end of the world.” Like the pedantic shit that I am, I reponded: “Oh, you can predict. You can always make a prediction, but most likely you’ll be wrong if you try and predict the last day of the world.” So whichever crazy cult said the world would end on 21 May will probably have made a wrong prediction. They’ll certainly feel pretty stupid if the world ends on Monday.

In any case, if the world were to end, it would be the Good News, because Jesus would come to save the righteous — and by mere dint of reading this blog, you are righteous. The Rapture thing is really what others call Judgment Day. So here are a few songs riffing on that theme, in lieue of Blondie and Anita Baker.

The Rance Allen Group – There’s Gonna Be A Showdown (1972)
Great stomper by gospel-soul/funk guys who turned The Temptations Just My Imagination into Just My Salvation on Covered With Soul Vol. 5.

Johnny Cash – Redemption Day (released 2010)
Recorded shortly before his death, the devout Christian Cash gets ready for the Judgment. “There is a train that’s heading straight to heaven’s gate… And on the way, child and man and woman wait, watch and wait, for redemption day.”

Over The Rhine – The Trumpet Child (2007)
“The trumpet child will blow his horn, will blast the sky till it’s reborn. With Gabriel’s power and Satchmo’s grace, he will surprise the human race.”

The Carter Family – When Our Lord Shall Come Again (1939)
The original Carter Family turn up on radio in 1939 to sing a hymn by Johnson Oatman Jr.(1856-1922) with music by R.L. Ferguson. “When upon the clouds of heaven Christ shall come to earth again; will the world be glad to see Him, when our Lord shall come again?”

Arizona Dranes – He’s Coming Soon (late 1920s)
Early gospel-blues legend makes a prediction. If the world ends today, she’ll be just 80-something years late.

Murder Songs Vol. 5

November 18th, 2010 6 comments

In this instalment of Murder Songs, we look at three real-life characters, from the 1890s, 1930s and 1950s.

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Woody Guthrie – Pretty Boy Floyd (1940).mp3
Charles Arthur ‘Pretty Boy” Floyd was a real-life criminal who came a cropper at the hands of law enforcement officers in 1934, at the age of 30. Wikipedia tells his story in some detail, including murders he might have committed or not. His fame rested with his career as a bankrobber. Like his contemporary John Dillinger, Floyd was regarded as something of a Robin Hood, stealing from those that steal from the poor, and then giving back to the poor; a victim of circumstance rather than a perpetrator of greed. This is how Woody Guthrie regards Floyd. He credits Floyd with one killing (the chainsaw beating the gun), but never mind that, because he redistributed the wealth. Anyhow, society’s anger should not be directed at the likes of Floyd, but at the bankers. In the age of enthusiastic foreclosures, Guthrie’s conclusion rings true even today: “Yes, as through your life you roam, you won’t never see an outlaw drive a family from their home.” So Floyd might have been involved in the killing of a couple of Feds and bootleggers, but, Guthrie suggests, that shouldn’t be held against him: “Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen.” The latter and their supporters are the bad guys here. Oh, to hear Guthrie sing about bail-outs and bonuses today…

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Long before Mickey and Mallory, there were these two...

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska (1982).mp3
Where Bruce killed a man in Wyoming just to see him die…  Here, Springsteen’s narrator is teenage serial killer Charles Starkweather. The story begins in 1958 as the narrator picks up his cheerleader girlfriend in his car (so far, so Bruce), and from here on in, “ten innocent people died”.  The girlfriend was 14-year-old Caril Ann Fugate. The killing spree kicks off in Lincoln, Nebraska, “with a sawed-off .410 on my lap. Through to the badlands of Wyoming I killed everything in my path”. In real life, the first three victims were Fugate’s mother, stepfather and baby step-sister. The natural born killers are caught, and in the song, our friend isn’t really sorry, because it was all good fun. Now he is facing his execution (Caril Ann was jailed until 1976), and he isn’t in a mood for repentance. “They wanted to know why I did what I did. Well, Sir, I guess there’s just a meanness in this world.” Murder songs don’t come much more chilling than that.

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The hanging of John Hardy on 19 January 1894

Carter Family – John Hardy Was A Desperate Little Man (1928).mp3
A traditional folk ballad, the tale of John Hardy has been told many times in various versions since it was first recorded in 1924. The version by the Carter Family may be the definitive one. The real story of John Hardy is quickly summarised: John Hardy kills one Thomas Drews in a gambling dispute in West Virginia in 1893, is arrested, tried, and sentenced to hang, as he did on 19 January 1894 before a crowd of 3000. The song imagines Hardy in his cell, now, as the title tells us, “a desperate little man”. The devil alcohol was to blame, as Hardy pronounced from the gallows. In fact, he was so drunk as to be oblivious to being arrested in a bar. Seems that Hardy has killed more than one person, but they all must have deserved it, because “my six-shooters never told a lie”. He gets visitors, from as girl in blue and a girl in red. The former stands by him, but the girl in red “said, ‘Johnny, I had rather see you dead’.” And, whether she is a metaphor or not, shortly she will get her wish.

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More Murder Songs

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