The Rose & the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad

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The Rose & the Briar assembles an astonishing group of writers and artists-Paul Muldoon, Stanley Crouch, R. Crumb, Jon Langford, Sharyn McCrumb, Luc Sante, Joyce Carol Oates, Dave Marsh, and more than a dozen other novelists, essayists, performers, and critics-to explore the ineffable power of the American ballad. From "Barbara Allen" through "The Wreck of Old 97," to contemporary ballads by Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, The Rose & the Briar is a powerfully original work that goes to the heart of the ...
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Overview

The Rose & the Briar assembles an astonishing group of writers and artists-Paul Muldoon, Stanley Crouch, R. Crumb, Jon Langford, Sharyn McCrumb, Luc Sante, Joyce Carol Oates, Dave Marsh, and more than a dozen other novelists, essayists, performers, and critics-to explore the ineffable power of the American ballad. From "Barbara Allen" through "The Wreck of Old 97," to contemporary ballads by Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, The Rose & the Briar is a powerfully original work that goes to the heart of the American psyche.
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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
In books like “Invisible Republic” and “Lipstick Traces,” the rock critic Greil Marcus developed an ability to discern an art movement, or an entire country, lurking inside a song. This is no longer a singular approach; it has become a critical style, as the current volume demonstrates. Many of the writers strain to match Marcus’s insights, and eighty poetic pages go by before Sarah Vowell’s excellent essay about the transformation of “John Brown’s Body” into “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” From there, things pick up steam. Luc Sante shadows the ghost of the New Orleans musician Buddy Bolden, and Paul Berman does a meticulous job of tracking the mariachi ballad “Volver, Volver” from Mexico to the counter of the Fast & Fresh deli in Brooklyn.
Publishers Weekly
Arguing that the American ballad is "a major form-musically, perhaps, the major form-through which Americans told each other about themselves and the country they inhabited," Wilentz, a Princeton history professor, and Marcus (Lipstick Traces) offer this impressive, innovative tribute to it. The contributors-critics (Stanley Crouch), novelists (Joyce Carol Oates), poets (Paul Muldoon), songwriters (Anna Domino) and other writers, performers and artists-were asked to "help create some new works of art" about a ballad of their choosing. Sarah Vowell traces the evolution of the ballad "John Brown's Body" into the hit song of 1862, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." John Rockwell meditates on the gentility of Burl Ives's "The Foggy, Foggy Dew" ("this performance helped define vocal beauty, shaping my taste forever"). R. Crumb contributes a hilarious cartoon version of "When You Go A Courtin' " that succinctly exposes the ballad's dark humor. And Eric Weisbard's wide-ranging "Love, Lore, Celebrity and Dead Babies: `Down from Dover' by Dolly Parton" might be the best essay yet on the work done by this misunderstood country-pop diva. Agents, Andrew Wylie and Wendy Weil. (Nov. 22) Forecast: Sony Legacy's September release of an eponymous album featuring 20 ballads should generate a good amount of buzz for this book in the music press. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
History professor Wilentz and rock critic Marcus (Mystery Train) have asked 22 authors and musicians to write about a ballad of their choice. The contributors, ranging from Joyce Carol Oates to R. Crumb, have responded with several standards (e.g., "Frankie and Johnny") but mostly with idiosyncratic surprises like Dolly Parton's "Down from Dover" and Randy Newman's "Sail Away." Both varieties weave tales of love, hate, passion, death, sometimes psychosis, and, almost universally, violence. The essayists use a variety of formats to illuminate their songs, including fictionalized accounts, social history, reminiscences, and even drawings and cartoons. As can be expected, the quality of the entries varies wildly, from the gripping fiction of Oates to the pompous meanderings of a few Rolling Stone cronies of Marcus. With more editorial control, the book would have been greatly improved. Sometimes fascinating and at other times highly dispensable, this collection offers an interesting look at a music staple. Recommended for general readers and larger performing arts collections; note the accompanying CD.-Dave Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393059540
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/2004
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.46 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Greil Marcus is the author of Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads, Lipstick Traces, and Mystery Train. An Old Dominion Fellow at Princeton University in 2002, he lives in Berkeley, California.

Sean Wilentz is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor of History and director of the Program in American Studies at Princeton University. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 "Barbara Allen" 7
2 "The water is wide" 19
3 "Pretty Polly" 35
4 Music, when soft voices die 51
5 Naomi Wise, 1807 69
6 John Brown's body 81
7 "When you go a courtin'" 93
8 Little Maggie - a mystery 99
9 We did them wrong : the ballad of Frankie and Albert 123
10 The sad song of Delia Green and Cooney Houston 147
11 Destiny in my right hand : "The wreck of old 97" and "Dead man's curve" 159
12 I thought I heard Buddy Bolden say 175
13 "See Willy fly by" and "The cuckoo" 187
14 Mariachi Reverie 201
15 "The foggy, foggy dew" 229
16 "Come Sunday" 241
17 "El Paso" 259
18 "Trial of Mary Maguire" 273
19 "Love, lore, celebrity, and dead babies : Dolly Parton's "Down from Dover" 287
20 "Sail away" and "Louisiana 1927" 305
21 Dancing with Dylan 315
22 "Nebraska" 327
23 "Blackwatertown" 345
Envoi 349
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