October is Country Music Month

What is known as “country music” has its roots, at least in part in a far older poetic tradition. Traditional country music is usually composed in the ballad form, one that tells a story of human passion or heartbreak, with a repeated or incremental refrain. One famous example of a ballad that can trace its origins to at least the 16th century is “Barbara Allen.” The song itself came with the early European settlers from the British Isles, and it has myriad versions throughout the English-speaking world. It is particularly associated with Appalachia, and likely came with the Scots-Irish who came to settle in the Blue Ridge Mountains through Tennessee region.

Choose just about any familiar old-style country song and track the progression: young man and young woman fall in love, one slights the other, spiteful behavior ensues, and one leaves forever or dies, leaving the other feeling mournful or deeply regretful. This is a trope found in literature, dating from the beginning of storytelling.

Here’s the legendary Emmylou Harris singing “Barbara Allen.”

Photo: horticulture.co.uk

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