Folk Alleys: Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel

I've been exploring the back alleys of American folk music all morning. There is a subtlety and  true flair for melody in many of these songs. I haven't been able to get "Richmond is a Hard Road" out of my head. The song was originally a Union Army song that had been adapted from "Jordan is a Hard Road to Travel," a song which was written by Dan Emmett, who also composed "Dixie."

The roads these songs lead listners to, the familiar melodies, the catchiness of the tunes all give them a timeless quality. Greil Marcus wrote, "America is a place and a story, made up of exuberance and suspicion, crime and liberation, lynch mobs and escapes, its greatest testaments are made of portents and warnings." These qualities are the backbone of the American songbook. There is hardship and joy, faith and doubt, uncertainty, and great hope wrapped up in these songs. None of these qualities are true binaries -- just gradations of sentiment and feeling. An old weird America? Perhaps. But more likely roads to other perceptions of history. They will be reworked for a long time, as long as we have the need to search and strive as a people.

Then pull off your coat and roll up your sleeve,
For Richmond is a hard road to travel;
Then pull off your coat and roll up your sleeve,
For Richmond is a hard road to travel, I believe!"
Listen:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAFUKOB1kfA
An interesting addition:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6YxVWZtyqg

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