The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in American Ballads

The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in American Ballads


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Assembled by Sean Wilents and Greil Marcus to accompany the book of the same title, The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in American Ballads is organized around the central question, "What does the American ballad say about America?" Well, judging from the selections collected, it would appear that America (no surprise here) is most obsessed with love and death and the attendant subplots of murder and betrayal, with an occasional train or car wreck tossed in for metaphorical value (if you move too fast you'll pay dearly....). The selections range from vintage 1920s and 1930s 78s, including Clarence Ashley's mysterious riddle of gambling and false-hearted love, "The Cuckoo," and two chilly Appalachian murder ballads, "Ommie Wise" (its melody, sped-up, later morphed into "Wabash Cannonball") by fiddler G.B. Grayson and "Pretty Polly" by the Coon Creek Girls, to more recent fare by Randy Newman ("Sail Away"), Bruce Springsteen ("Nebraska"), and Bob Dylan ("Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts"). Also worth noting are Jean Ritchie's unaccompanied "Barbary Allen" from 1961, the Handsome Family's restructuring of Paul Muldoon's "Blackwatertown" (in turn based on the melody of "Streets of Laredo"), and Jan & Dean's classic tale of speed beyond reason, "Dead Man's Curve." Toss in Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday" and a rock remake of "Wreck of the Old 97" by John Mellencamp, and the result is an odd, disjointed sequence that is more of an academic conception than it is a musical one. But that is actually the strength of The Rose and the Briar, since it forces listeners to make large leaps to connect the dots, and reminds everyone that tradition (or in its extreme form, obsession) carries its DNA forward in surprising ways.

Product Details

Release Date: 09/28/2004
Label: Sony
UPC: 0827969286623
catalogNumber: 92866
Rank: 141663

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Mississippi John Hurt   Guitar,Vocals
Glen Campbell   Electric Guitar
Dolly Parton   Vocals
Marty Robbins   Guitar,Vocals
Burl Ives   Guitar,Vocals
Jean Ritchie   Vocals
P.F. Sloan   Background Vocals
Mahalia Jackson   Vocals
Bob Dylan   Guitar,Harmonica,Vocals
Randy Newman   Piano,Vocals
Bruce Springsteen   Guitar,Harmonica
Cat Anderson   Trumpet
Paul Gonsalves   Tenor Saxophone
Jelly Roll Morton   Piano,Vocals
Ray Nance   Trumpet,Violin
Jimmy Woode   Bass
Anna Domino   Guitar,Vocals
Pete Drake   Steel Guitar
Bobby Patterson   Electric Guitar,Vocals
Jim Glaser   Background Vocals
Grady Martin   Guitar
Russell Procope   Clarinet,Alto Saxophone
Vicente Fernández   Vocals
Tony Glover   Harp
Charles Trénet   Tambourine
Quentin Jackson   Trombone
Britt Woodman   Trombone
Joe Babcock   Background Vocals
Harold Baker   Trumpet
Hal Blaine   Drums
Steve Barri   Background Vocals
Jan Berry   Vocals
Harry Carney   Baritone Saxophone
Clark Terry   Trumpet
Duke Ellington   Piano
Bobby Dyson   Bass
Dolores Edgin   Background Vocals
Bill Graham   Alto Saxophone
Jimmy Hamilton   Clarinet
Jim Isbell   Drums
"Spider" John Koerner   Harp,Vocals,12-string Guitar,Soloist
Cappy Lewis   Trumpet
Paul Mahern   Drums
John Mellencamp   Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
June Page   Background Vocals
Dorothy Remsen   Harp
Emil Richards   Percussion
John Sanders   Trombone
Tony Terran   Trumpet
Mike Wanchic   Bass,Accordion,Electric Guitar,Guitar (Baritone)
Sam Woodyard   Drums
Vincent DeRosa   French Horn
Emil Newman   Conductor
Louis Dunn   Drums
Lily May Ledford   Banjo,Vocals
Rosie Ledford   Guitar
Jack Pruett   Rhythm Guitar
Bob Moore   Bass
Fred Carter   Electric Guitar
G.B. Grayson   Fiddle,Vocals
Dean Torrence   Vocals
Dave Ray   Slide Guitar
Brett Sparks   Vocals,Multi Instruments
Michel Delory   Dobro,Classical Guitar
Bobby Sykes   Background Vocals
George W. McCormick   Rhythm Guitar
Clarence Ashley   Banjo,Vocals
Bobby Simpson   Saxophone
Ronnie "Sugar Boy" Brewster   Drums
Michael Fugett   Bass
Bill Pittman   Bass
William Hinshaw   French Horn

Technical Credits

Dolly Parton   Composer
Marty Robbins   Composer
Bob Dylan   Composer
Randy Newman   Composer
Bruce Springsteen   Composer
Anna Domino   Sequencers
Bobby Patterson   Producer
Alan Lomax   Producer
Jan Berry   Composer,Producer
Bob Ferguson   Producer
Kenneth S. Goldstein   Producer
Frank Jones   Producer
Don Law   Producer
Paul Mahern   Engineer
John Mellencamp   Arranger,Producer
Russ Titelman   Producer
Irving Townsend   Producer
Mike Wanchic   Producer
Lenny Waronker   Producer
B.J. Wilson   Composer
Artie Kornfeld   Composer
Greil Marcus   Liner Notes
G.B. Grayson   Composer
Howard Fritzson   Art Direction
Brett Sparks   Producer
Fernando Z. Maldonado   Composer
Michel Delory   Producer,drum programming
Mark Trehus   Producer
Traditional   Composer
J.C. Carroll   Composer
Roger Christian   Composer

Customer Reviews

The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in American Ballads 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This collection is notable for a few reasons. The like-named book, featuring essays, memoirs and short-stories from a number of musicians, writers and artists provides the script for which these tracks constitute a performance. As a stand-alone, this CD paints a rich history of the American ballad, drawing a thread through works from 1928 to the present day. And as a new release, this disc features purpose-made recordings by Snakefarm, John Mellencamp and The Handsome Family that illuminate new sides of well-worn tunes. ¶ As another reviewer has commented, the single-mindedness and length of this disc (78+ minutes) feels like a college radio DJ whose meticulously planned theme set has gone about 45 minutes too long. On the other hand, the track selections finely mix the obscure and well-known, bringing the former to the foreground and recontextualizing the latter. Jan & Dean's "Dead Man's Curve," for instance, finds a link to tradition that broadens its original appeal as teen pop, and Marty Robbins' "El Paso" strengthens its bond to the roots of American storytelling - rather than the Western nostalgia with which it was originally recorded. ¶ The three newly recorded tracks are all quite noteworthy. Snakefarm creates a modern-raga from the traditional "Little Maggie," John Mellencamp weighs heavily on the death and grief underlying "Wreck of the Old '97," and Paul Muldoo explores the tradition of rewriting with "Blackwatertown," rewriting "The Streets of Laredo," which rewrote "St. James Infirmary," which rewrote "The Unfortunate Rake," which rewrote "The Bard of Armagh." ¶ At this length, the set is a bit taxing to track through in its entirety. Still, the strength of the selections provides a wealth of musical tradition whether played in order or sampled for favorites.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Time – 78:07 -- Simply, a ballad is a narrative poem put to music and meant to be sung. The themes most often found in American ballads are romantic, nostalgic or sentimental in some respect. Sean Wilentz and Greil Marcus served as editors for this collection of historic and contemporary ballads. Some like “Ommie Wise,” “Frankie” and “The Coo Coo Bird” were recorded in the 1920s, while tracks 4, 7 and 20 are previously unreleased songs just recorded in 2004. Sean Wilentz, a history professor at Princeton University, also serves as historian-in-residence at Bob Dylan's official website. Greil Marcus was an Old Dominion Fellow at Princeton in 2002, and he now lives in Berkeley, Ca. Both realized the importance of the ballad in America’s history, and they identified a need to capture (in a book and CD) a representation of this important musical art form. In the accompanying book, Sean Wilentz and Greil Marcus have assembled an impressive group of writers and artists to assist them. Some include Paul Muldoon, Stanley Crouch, R. Crumb, Jon Langford, John Rockwell, Luc Sante, Joyce Carol Oates, and Dave Marsh. Many other novelists, essayists, performers, and critics also helped. They analyze and delve into the transcendent beauty and lasting power of the ballad. In the book (with its 25 illustrations), the collaborators provide a scholarly overview of America's most imaginative and expressive form. The CD that accompanies the book has many popular ballads such as "Barbara Allen" and "The Wreck of the Old 97." Even more contemporary ballads from Bob Dylan, Marty Robbins, Dolly Parton, Randy Newman and Bruce Springsteen are also included. The jump from a 1927 recording of “Ommie Wise” at track 3 to the Anna Domino’s 2004 rendition of “Little Maggie” at track 4 shows an interesting juxtaposition of the traditional vs. the contemporary. The book presents a variety of art and commentary about stories and storytellers balladry We can learn a lot about the history of our country and our America beliefs from studying about love, death, family, faith and liberty in these poetic songs. But where are all the train-themed and western ballads that we love so well? My hat’s off to these musicologists who present an historical overview of a significant part of our nation’s musical heritage. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)