Snapshot: Dark Corners

The Appalachian Murder Ballad

Cold Fall the Drops of Rain, by Julyan Davis, 2016. Oil on canvas, 46 x 38 in.

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Snapshot: Dark Corners

The Appalachian Murder Ballad

by Julyan Davis
Southern Cultures, Gothic South (Vol. 29, No. 4)

“I grew up listening to the folks songs of my ancestors along the Scottish Borders.”

I grew up listening to the folk songs of my ancestors along the Scottish Borders. When I left London for America, I discovered the songs again, preserved intact in the Appalachian South. Even as a child, I was drawn to the pathos and melancholy of these old ballads. They are weighted with what the historian David Hackett Fisher described as “nescient fatalism.” Such a fatalism—a kind of stoic acceptance existing without specific foreknowledge—is common among societies with a history of violence. So also is the culture of honor that I found similarly transported to parts of America from its traumatic birthplace in the now-gentle Scottish Borders.

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