thehousecarpenterThe traditional song "The House Carpenter" has been covered many times. Too many times, if you ask me. One version is worse than the other. The interpretations span from old gutsy sea shanties to torturous singer-songwriter takes. In some cases it's not so obvious. The late Dutch-Swedish troubadour Cornelis Vreeswijk just ripped the chords in his song "Somliga Går I Trasiga Skor" without giving any credit. However, one version stand out: a duet with Gabrielle Louise and David Rynhart from a show in 2009 (if you double-click on the image, a video clip will open in a new window). For what I can tell she plays a Martin guitar (Sustainable Wood Series model) and he plays an Epiphone mandolin (MM30 model). I feel uncomfortable to point this out, but David Rynhart is a wooden-stiff pretty-boy who should have stuck to the mandolin playing and backing vocals. Bear in mind, his vocal parts are supposed to represent a dead ghost or the Devil trying to entice the female protagonist. So what makes this version great? It's Gabrielle Louise, at the time a twenty-four year old woman with tied up hair, barefoot, in cardinal dress. She pulls all the weight. And I mean, all the weight. Her empathy, sensitivity, stage presence, energy level and facial expression are truly amazing. Take a good look. This is how a musician looks like. Her crystal-clear vocal parts represent the female protagonist and cuts through bone and marrow. Read more about the song here (opens in a new window). The last two verses in the song are dark as the night and heavy as lead (even by gothic country standards).

"What hills, what hills are those, my love,
That rise so fair and high?
Those are the hills of heaven, my love,
But not for you and I." [this version: "That you and I must deny"]

"And what hills, what hills are those, my love,
Those hills so dark and low?
"Those are the hills of hell, my love,
Where you and I must go." 
       
The normal thing for me to do would be to thoroughly check out her music and albums. But, I'm afraid of what I might find. I honestly don't care if she later became a mainstream artist. However, I do want this moment to last forever.    

Southern Gothic picture 2019 3This weekend Southern Gothic Campout took place for the second time. The headliners were no less than Murder By Death, O'Death and The Builders & The Butchers. However, there is a world of difference between them and the bands in smaller fonts. Not only in terms of being renowned, but in terms of being gothic. More bluntly put, do all fit the gothic bill? The genre shares thematic connections with the Southern Gothic genre of literature. Songs often examine poverty, criminal behavior, religious imagery, dysfuntional relationships, death, ghosts, twisted love, alcohol and drugs in all forms, murder, the Devil and betrayal. The festival arranger, Muddy Roots Records, stretches the Southern Gothic concept to its limits in their promotion of the event (choice of imagery, fraktur-style fonts and references to the Bell witch). One example: "We’re headed back into the dark woods of Adams, TN., home of the chilling Bell Witch lore. We hope to survive camping Friday and Saturday along the blood Red River." Maybe people want to be tickled. The selection critera of bands doesn't meet my purist demands. Does it matter? A dedicated music festival is better than no festival. But words do matter. Southern Gothic should be reserved for Southern Gothic. Personally, I would "rather be dead in a ditch" than to use the term "Southern Gothic" incorrectly. A spade is a spade, and not a gardening tool.  

PFTSD vinyl4Sons of Perdition's immoderate album "Psalms for the Spiritually Dead" (PFTSD) has never been released physically. Until now. It was originally released in 2010 as a download only album. In 2014 a remastered version followed. According to Zebulon Whatley, it's louder and a bit brighter than the original version. Nine years after the original release the small label Secret Records in Madison, Wisconsin will release the gloomy album on vinyl. The label specializes in very limited editions of vinyl and cassettes. It's run by Vincent Presley (touring member of Those Poor Bastards). Preorder the vinyl here (opens in a new window). Secret Records offers a wide range of different alternatives: a limited edition Bone/Black/Orange swirl for $30 (100 copies), a limited edition GOLD vinyl for $25 (150 copies) or Test pressing on black vinyl, white labels and hand-written jackets for $75 (5 copies). You can also preorder the Vinyl/CD/Tape BUNDLE DEAL for only $40. It contains PFTSD on either color of vinyl, a CD of Trinity, and; the Gathered Blood / Spilt Blood Cassette at a discount. That's what I call a good deal. All offers includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app. Zebulon Whatley's idea for the sound on PFTSD was "overwhelmingly bleak". Mission accomplished and greatly exceeded. It takes a certain kind of disposition to listen to the album in one swipe. The vinyl format has the advantage that you can divide the overwhelmingly bleakness into two fairly equal parts. 

   

snakehandlingsoundtrackSnake handling, a.k.a. serpent handling, is a religious rite practised in a small number of churches in the United States, usually characterized as rural and part of the Holiness movement. The dangerous rite is a demonstration of strength of faith. If you are bitten, and die, it can be interpreted as a lack of faith or failure to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit. If you are bitten and not treated, and live, you are regarded as a strong believer. It can go either way. Over 60 deaths have been documented in the United States. The practice began in the early 20th century in Appalachia and is based on a literal interpretation of the biblical passage in Mark 16:17-18 (King James version): "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." The best known example is "Church of God with Signs Following", which is characterized by the five signs in the biblical passage: exorcisms, speaking in tongues, handling of serpents, drinking of poison (preferably strychnine or lye) and laying on hands. The founder of snake handling, minister George Went Hensley (who lived a troubled and dramatic life), claimed to have been bitten over 400 times by various snakes. Snake handling of today (prohibited but still practiced) is sometimes accompanied by music. I visualized slow and monotone banjo picking stripped down to the bare bone. However, a reliable source revealed to me, that the music being played is fleshy Southern rock in the same vein as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet. I'm shocked and appalled.  


 

makegothiccountrymusicgreatagain"You look at what’s happening" Trump told his supporters at a rally in Februari 2017. "You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?" Not the Swedes, anyway, since nothing happened that night (or any other night for that matter). I'm more concerned of what has happened in America. More precisely, I'm referring to the decline of gothic country music. It didn't happen over night. It's been a slippery slope for a decade. This sad development wasn't predetermined. America has always been a source of attraction. I really believe in America when it comes to gothic country music. Heritage, culture and talent in abundance. But how has these great assets been managed? America, what is wrong with you? You must make your heart steel. The social media platforms are flooded with artists that you never heard of and, hopefully, never will. Their biographies are written by content marketing editors. It seems like an unproportional share of the artists grew up by a riverbank listening to old-timey music in grandpa's lap. Yeah, right. It's pretty awful to read. I must restrain myself not to explode. A new order is needed. Make gothic country music great again. It's going to be tough. As the philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli realized five hundred years ago "It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones." I have no idea or plan of how gothic country music will be great again. And maybe I'm longing for the old order, not a new order. But, we can start by speaking the truth. "Hello, we play gothic country". No, you don't. "Hello, we are a gothic country band". No, you aren't. "Hello, we are the real thing". No, you are fake. Strong words indeed, but I had to say it. Thruth will set you free.  


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