Dark Holler: Old Love Songs and Ballads

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Steve Leggett
This remarkable album features field recordings of Appalachian ballad singers collected by John Cohen in the Big Laurel region of Madison County, NC, in the early and mid-'60s. The songs which the Big Laurel singers simply referred to as "old love songs" feel ancient and timeless, embedded with dark themes and topics that include violent murder, unmarried pregnancies, infidelity, abandoned children, adultery, and seduction, mostly sung a cappella with a certain deceptive detachment and full of vocal bends, melismas, sliding notes, and extended phrasing. Taken together, these songs pack more ill-fated romance, tragedy, revenge, and karmic reckoning, not to mention ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Steve Leggett
This remarkable album features field recordings of Appalachian ballad singers collected by John Cohen in the Big Laurel region of Madison County, NC, in the early and mid-'60s. The songs which the Big Laurel singers simply referred to as "old love songs" feel ancient and timeless, embedded with dark themes and topics that include violent murder, unmarried pregnancies, infidelity, abandoned children, adultery, and seduction, mostly sung a cappella with a certain deceptive detachment and full of vocal bends, melismas, sliding notes, and extended phrasing. Taken together, these songs pack more ill-fated romance, tragedy, revenge, and karmic reckoning, not to mention violence, into their lyrics than most rap records, all with the narrative ego removed, which only serves to make them seem even starker in tone. Over half of the selections are sung by Dillard Chandler, who was somewhat of a mysterious character even in his own community, a shy Appalachian singer who couldn't read or write, but carried in his head the words and melodies of hundreds of these "old love songs," and he sang them with deft precision, often with the song's strong sexual undercurrents intact. In the end it's hard not to feel that these powerful romantic tragedies are actually thinly veiled commentaries on the rapidly unfolding complexities of the modern world, but then again, these songs stand outside of time in an insular place all their own, as much riddles as they are morality lessons. Among the many striking selections here are Cas Wallin's emotionally balanced version of "Pretty Saro," Lisha Shelton's "In Zepo Town" a variant of "Bruton Town", and three absolute gems from Chandler, including "Cold Rain and Snow," the almost blues-like "Short Time Here, Long Time Gone," and the haunting "I Wish My Baby Was Born," a version of which was featured in the Cold Mountain movie. Hope would appear to be in short supply in these songs, but there is a tenacity of spirit in these old ballads that implies hope in the future by refusing to forget the past. They certainly don't write songs like this anymore, and they don't sing 'em like this anymore, either. A wonderful, dark, mysterious, and fascinating set. [A bonus DVD of John Cohen's film documentary on Dillard Chandler, The End of an Old Song, is included in the package of Dark Holler.]
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/27/2005
  • Label: Smithsonian Folkways
  • UPC: 093074015926
  • Catalog Number: 40159
  • Sales rank: 176,680

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 The Carolina Lady (4:17)
  2. 2 The Soldier Traveling from the North (3:23)
  3. 3 The Sailor Being Tired (3:03)
  4. 4 Young Emily (2:07)
  5. 5 Pretty Fair Miss in Her Garden (1:35)
  6. 6 When I Wore My Apron Low (0:58)
  7. 7 Pretty Saro - Cas Wallin (2:59)
  8. 8 Fine Sally - Cas Wallin (2:16)
  9. 9 Neighbor Girl - Lee Wallin (2:14)
  10. 10 Juba This - Lee Wallin (0:43)
  11. 11 Gathering Flowers (1:26)
  12. 12 Gastony Song (1:34)
  13. 13 Cold Rain and Snow (2:27)
  14. 14 In Zepo Town - Lisha Shelton (3:23)
  15. 15 Don't You Remember - Lisha Shelton (2:38)
  16. 16 Awake, Awake (4:16)
  17. 17 Mathie Grove (6:10)
  18. 18 Scotland Man - George Landers (4:40)
  19. 19 Love Has Brought Me to Despair (2:51)
  20. 20 Johnny Doyle (3:58)
  21. 21 Short Time Here, Long Time Gone (1:32)
  22. 22 Drunken Driver (4:07)
  23. 23 Jesus Says Go (2:03)
  24. 24 Meeting Is Over (2:51)
  25. 25 Little Farmer Boy (4:29)
  26. 26 I Wish My Baby Was Born (1:02)
Disc 2
  1. 1 The End of an Old Song
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Album Credits

Technical Credits
John Cohen Annotation
Pete Reiniger Mastering
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