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Author Topic: Dark Holler: Old Love Songs and Ballads  (Read 2229 times)

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Offline ryan

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Dark Holler: Old Love Songs and Ballads
« on: September 27, 2005, 01:28:26 AM »
Anybody know about this??  it comes out tomorrow on folkways and looks cool.  I will pick it up and give my two cents tomorrow
Various Artists
Dark Holler: Old Love Songs and Ballads

 Review by 
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.] ? Steve Leggett

Offline Stuart

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Re: Dark Holler: Old Love Songs and Ballads
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2005, 06:39:30 AM »

I checked the Smithsonian Folkways site ( and nothing came up under this title. It is probably a compilation of material from various artists recorded in the 60s that was originally released on individual Folkways LPs. A search of the site by the artists' names will probably yield more info.


Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Dark Holler: Old Love Songs and Ballads
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2005, 11:21:26 AM »
Anybody know about this??? it comes out tomorrow on folkways and looks cool.? I will pick it up and give my two cents tomorrow
 Various Artists
Dark Holler: Old Love Songs and Ballads
No, but could it be an upgrading of a 1964 Folkways LP collected/put together by Peter Gott and John Cohen called "Old Love Songs and Ballads from the Big Laurel, North Carolina" which used to be very popular in London folk music circles in the 60s?

Offline Johnm

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Re: Dark Holler: Old Love Songs and Ballads
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2005, 03:14:08 PM »
Hi all,
Judging by the personnel and titles, the new compilation does draw heavily on the old "Big Laurel" recording and also perhaps, a later Folkways release that I can not now remember the title of that featured Dillard Chandler alone.  He was a great singer, and if you are a fan of people like Doc Boggs and Roscoe Holcomb, you would probably really like his singing.  He was less overtly blues-inflected than Doc or Roscoe, but still had a big element of blues influence in his singing.  I remember his version of the "House of The Rising sun" started,
     There is a sport in New Orleans
a "sport" in his usage being a prostitute of some reknown.  Also on that "Big Laurel" collection were outstanding versions of "Mattie Groves" and a version of "Oh Death" that Doc Boggs sang, entitled "Conversation With Death", sung by Berzillah Wallin. 
This new collection sounds to be very strong and a far cry from "easy listening".
All best,


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