Music for the Grim(m) Season  – Dancing on graves

Welcome, spookyfriends!  Since this week began on Monday with the Day of the Dead, we thought this week’s music should relate to the dead.  Not the honored saints of last Sunday (All Saints’ Day), but the rest of the dead whom we remember on All Souls’ Day, November 2.  You know, that day when people picnic in churchyards and cemeteries next to (or on) the graves of their loved ones?  Yeah, that.  We figure if you have the courage to picnic there, you might as well dance, too, or at least play some music.  And where else would we look first but to the playlist of that original HBO cable series devoted to the Walking Dead, True Blood?

No, we’re not looking for songs about the undead this time, just the regular dead – but the playlists for True Blood and our other favorite HBO series of recent memory, Tremé, are just wonderful.  The music directors for those two series made careful selections that evoke so much that visuals alone can’t.  In that sense, good incidental music during an episode serves both to heighten the mood and to provide a kind of musical shorthand for the action, a clue to what’s happening or what’s about to happen – much the same as music does in opera.  True Blood’s playlist in particular ran the gamut from swamp rock to wicked blues, to folk and bluegrass, to gospel and back.

Our selection this time is a song that really stuck in our heads when we first heard it at the end of an episode over the closing credits.  It’s from a progressive-bluegrass group known as Crooked Still, and it’s called “Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold My Body Down).”  It’s from their 2006 recording Shaken By A Low Sound.  There’s just something haunting about finger-picked banjo or acoustic guitar music played in a minor key – especially if there’s rough, insistent string accompaniment, which there is here – that always sounds like you’re walking past a graveyard at night; only this time, it’s as if the dead are talking back, defying the Last Call of the angel Gabriel before the Doom comes down.  This is the GOOD version, and we think you’ll like it.  Play it loud to get the full effect (and, possibly, to spook your neighbors), then follow it up with something softer but just as ooky and evocative, like John Fahey’s solo guitar instrumental “Wine And Roses” from the 1964 album The Dance of Death And Other Plantation Favorites, to maintain the mood.  You should be suitably disturbed.

Also, for those of you who will be in the Chicago area next week, we thought we’d mention that you can hear live concert music devoted to the Day of the Dead.  The Chicago Sinfonietta will stage two performances of that program – once in west suburban Naperville, followed by an evening at the Symphony Center (the CSO’s Orchestra Hall) in Chicago.  For further information, check online at:

Have fun out there, spookyfans!

Your own spooky spinmistress,
DJ SweetMarie


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