Search This Blog

Monday, October 11, 2010

207. "In the Woods of Hemlock Park" by The Rock*A*Teens

Requested by Jeff Norman.

This is not a song I'd heard before, and the production on it is really, really interesting, murky and classic-sounding at the same time. It wasn't something I could easily replicate and an alternative approach didn't immediately suggest itself to me, so I did what I'm supposed to do here... I stepped back and looked at the song itself. And I was surprised that I fairly quickly decided it was a variation on an old-time murder ballad. There's a lot of ambiguity as to what actually happens in the titular woods (well, either that or I'm quite thick), some question as to whether the tragedy is visited upon the victim by outside forces or the singer himself, and it's even a little open-ended as to who's truly dead and gone, but even that isn't too alien to the folk ballad trope, and the last verse does have a reversal or twist that's fairly common in them, too. So I had my approach.

At first I tried to reframe it as a dirgey waltz, but as I worked that out-- actually as I transcribed the lyrics, as they don't exist online, which, in case you've never thought of this, adds a fair amount of time to my process compared to songs which are tabbed to death on the internet-- it occurred to me that of the many versions I've heard of, say, "Banks of the Ohio" or "Stackolee", a fair amount of them are downright sprightly. And that started to seem a little more genuine to me, so that's the tack I took. If I'd had a little more time, I would've added banjo and something rigged to sound like a string bass, and as it was I barely got the mandolin on there, but the harmonica and the vocal style I tried out-- which is meant to be more Guthrie than Dylan-- manage to make the tune sound at least a little bit older than it is.

Personnel: Rex

No comments:

Post a Comment