The cutesy novelty stuff is fine, but there are SO many more interesting things to listen to for Halloween than the frickin' stale "Monster Mash." Country and folk music have particularly rich veins of creepy and cool death songs to set a suitably macabre mood.
For this country death mix, I'm looking for things that are creepy or maudlin, or hopefully some of both. I've purposely left out murder songs, as I'm thinking up a whole separate list of country murder stuff. Can't get enough of that.
I'm also discounting some really good death themed songs that just don't have the right creepy emotional energy. For example, Tom T Hall's "Ballad of Forty Dollars" is a particularly great song set at a funeral, but there's nothing at all creepy or maudlin about it.
For starters, you can't get much creepier or more maudlin than singing about dead children. We'll start this mess with "Jeannie's Afraid of the Dark." This song particularly worked on my pre-adolescent mind, watching Porter and Dolly sing this on his tv show 30 odd years ago. I suspect I'm missing some personal tragedy story, cause Dolly's got quite a bunch of songs about dead children. This was her best known, but even creepier was her solo song "Me and Little Andy" in which the Lord takes the girl and her little dog, too.
Less known, but freakier than any dead child o' Dolly's, the usually rather comedic Little Jimmy Dickens had "Raggedy Ann," which the narrator is addressing to his dead daughter's dolly laid on her grave. This song messed me up enough to have to write a whole separate story. CLICK HERE for it. This thing takes the cake, and the critical closing position in this deathly menagerie.
But back to Porter Wagoner. For being the tv star with the corny jokes and the cheesy nudie suits, this guy has some really dark material in his catalogue. He turns out to be the star of this collection. Especially, he worked on my little mind with the secret confessional shame understatedly expressed in his classic tale of "The Carroll County Accident." Lots of people do "The Green Green Grass of Home," but his is the version that most sticks with me. Also in death themes, he'll figure big in the country murder material.
Sticking with the traffic wreck theme, the most purely existentially terrifying track in this set comes from Roy Acuff. You can just about smell that "Wreck on the Highway" with the whiskey and blood and the broken glass all run together.
"Phantom 309" could be seen as cheesy, I suppose, but this classic Red Sovine hit strikes me personally as more of a cool ghost story. It's not really scary at all, but it's not really meant to be frightening. It's not like Big Joe was going to jump out and GET ya.
Perhaps the most beautifully maudlin thing here is "He Stopped Loving Her Today." George Jones famously balked at recording the song, figuring that "no one will buy the morbid son of a bitch." It's a great song, but the pathos goes right by me. I'm just not sympathetic to the guy. He WANTED to be miserable, it sounds like to me.
You have to have a couple of dead wife songs in the maudlin stuff. "Country Bumpkin" would probably rate a little better overall musically, but "Honey" seems perhaps a bit more effectively maudlin.
I'm de-emphasizing the suicide songs here, as I already did a Halloween collection just of that. CLICK HERE Still, you need at least a couple of those. "One Dyin' and a Buryin'" by Roger Miller rates high with me, and Bill Anderson's "Three AM" is quite good as well.
Bill Monroe wrote a particularly moving late period instrumental in the 1980s after he was diagnosed with cancer. He went on another dozen plus years, but "My Last Days on Earth" stands for a beautiful and profound final major artistic statement. This totally lacks the cheese aspect that actually makes a lot of these other songs interesting. It's just straight up contemplation of mortality.
Finally, note the old Doc Watson Family recording of the standard "House Carpenter," which seems to involve some serious supernatural stuff.
Here ya go, then, with fixings for your:
COUNTRY DEATH HALLOWEEN CD MIX
"Jeannie's Afraid of the Dark" - Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton
"He Stopped Loving Her Today" - George Jones
"Country Bumpkin" - Cal Smith
"My Farewell Party" - Gene Watson
"The Long Black Veil" - The Band
"Honey" - Bobby Goldsboro
"One Dyin' and a Buryin'" - Roger Miller
"Three AM" - Bill Anderson
"The Legend of Wooley Swamp" - Charlie Daniels Band
"Ode to Billie Joe" - Bobbie Gentry
"Seasons in the Sun" - The Kingston Trio
"Sing Me Back Home" - Merle Haggard
"Green Green Grass of Home" - Porter Wagoner
"Wreck on the Highway" - Roy Acuff
"The Carroll County Accident" - Porter Wagoner
"Phantom 309" - Red Sovine
"The Ride" - David Allan Coe
"Long Black Limousine" - Elvis Presley
"Pictures From Life's Other Side" - Grandpa Jones
"The House Carpenter" - Doc Watson Family
"Me and Little Andy" - Dolly Parton
"My Last Days on Earth" - Bill Monroe
"O Death" - Ralph Stanley
"Raggedy Ann" - Little Jimmie Dickens
Dig also Halloween CD mixes of suicide, country death, country murder, and songs to murder your woman by. Throw in a nice bug mix.
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