Seven Spanish Angels: Romance, Violence and Absolution in the West

Willie Nelson and Ray Charles (screencap of a live performance)

“Seven Spanish Angels” When I pick up the guitar to sing, I like to launch into the long ballads. The melody sinks in to me through repetition. The lyrics, many refined over time by unknown self-appointed editors, flow out. If I’m lucky, I discover something new inside them. I let … → read more

Danse Macabre (the first installment)

Danse Macabre

Murder ballads made for dancing The Corries’ performance of “The Massacre of Glencoe” on our Facebook page several days ago prompted one reader to comment that older songs like it differed with more recent “hardcore” music in that the tenderness of the music contrasted with the grimness of the story. I … → read more

A ruthless man and a dangerous outlaw

Jeffrey Foucault and Mark Erelli This is the second post this week on Norman Blake’s “Billy Gray.”  Read the first here. Outlaw Rhetoric That I haven’t read Aristotle‘s Poetics yet is a gap in my education.  I’ll need to get right on that, as it would doubtless help me here.  I … → read more

One little kiss, and Faleena goodbye

Bob Weir [This is the fourth post this week on Marty Robbins’s “El Paso.”  You can find the first one here, the second here, and the third here.]I’ve found over the course of doing my weeks at the blog that my interaction with a song usually takes one of two … → read more

Life is no more, but we’re together

[This is the third post this week on Marty Robbins’s “El Paso.”  Read the first here, and the second here.] In today’s post, let’s give a listen to some of the Western material that Robbins created both at the time of “El Paso’s” initial release and after its enormous success … → read more

My love was deep for this Mexican maiden

Laurette Luez  [This is the second post on the song “El Paso.”  Read the first one here.]Crossing BordersIn his essay on “El Paso” in The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad,” music critic and political scientist James Miller describes the origin of “El Paso.” … → read more

Murder at the Dead Show – First Set

“Listening for the secret, searching for the sound…” I am one of those people who early in life, somewhere around age four, started grappling with the existential ‘problem’ of death.  I don’t know why. Maybe it was because my grandmother took me several times to her husband’s new grave (he … → read more