‘Long Black Veil’ is a rustic ballad that was written and first recorded in 1959 and nonetheless stands the hairs on the again of the neck when it’s carried out and heard, over 60 years later. Initially recorded by Lefty Frizzell as a single, it grew to become his most profitable music for years, peaking at #6 on the Billboard nation charts. While this would possibly seem to be a middling degree accomplishment in its time, since its launch ‘LBV’ has turn into a stone-cold commonplace of nation music with myriad variations that replicate the regard that artists of all stripes have for the music.
At its coronary heart it’s a traditional nation story music, and a loss of life music in addition. The narrative is obvious and acquainted: man wrongly accused of a homicide, refuses to supply up an alibi that can save his life as a result of he was in any other case engaged in “the arms of his greatest pal’s spouse”. Stated spouse says nothing too however then spends eternity mourning over her lover’s bones – to date so ‘Nation Loss of life Track’ (with because of Gordon Gano). Clearly this narrative just isn’t a common story, we are able to’t all relate on to tales of betrayal, homicide and unjust executions. However it’s a universally resonant story and all of us have the capability to be affected by the resonances current within the many variations of the music.
In simply 139 brief phrases the music captures multitudes; timeless love and devotion, everlasting grief and defeat, treacherous infidelity, unbelievable humility and selflessness, hypocrisy, homicide, thriller and injustice are all addressed and mix to create an environment of profound, even wretched, anguish and pathos. It truly is as bleak because it will get, with no signal of redemption for any of these concerned. This unremitting darkness is maybe what attracts so many to the music, and will have been the place I made my reference to it within the first occasion. This darkness has developed a lifetime of its personal, such that it has turn into a trope for infidelity gone flawed and the disastrous penalties wrought thereby; witness the novel ‘Long Black Veil’ by Jennifer Finney Boylan that (apparently) untangles a girl’s previous and a mysterious loss of life by an examination of the key’s we preserve.
‘Long Black Veil’ was written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin. Wilkin is an fascinating character in her personal proper. A profitable feminine songwriter and enterprise particular person in Nashville when that was nonetheless a rarity. Long earlier than Loretta, Dolly or Bobbie Gentry took up the pen mantel she was writing profitable songs for Wanda Jackson, Jimmy C Newman and Stonewall Jackson and even had them lined by The Beatles and Rod the Mod. In addition to ‘Long Black Veil’ she is answerable for one other out and out nation gospel traditional, within the form of “One Day at a Time”, which she co-wrote together with her protégé, mentee and pal, Kris Kristofferson. The sluggish, ballad tempo and the platonic simplicity of the music depart infinite potentialities for interpretation inside a really tight and minimal format, maybe why it’s such a broadly lined music.
The quantity and assortment of covers is means past the scope of this piece however, starting from genius Greenwich folky Fred Neil, by The Byrds, Michael Nesmith and Richard Hawley to outliers corresponding to Nick Cave and Paul Westerberg ‘Long Black Veil’ by no means loses its essence, irrespective of who’s taking part in it. Maybe essentially the most well-known model is Johnny Money’s from the ‘Orange Blossom Particular’ LP, but it’s Frizzell’s authentic recording of the music, which was included within the Nationwide Recording Registry by the Library of Congress due to it was deemed “culturally, traditionally, or aesthetically important and/or inform or replicate life in america”.
It’s subsequently Frizzell’s authentic that we provide right here, with a twist. Following his model is an ‘reply’ model by Wilkin herself, reflecting the angle of the grieving girl who “Walks these hills in a Long Black Veil”.