It’s Friday, and ol’ AJ’s knocking off a bit early to enjoy the weather and do a little pickin’. Mountain music is one of the finest, most popular traditions of Appalachia, and there’s so much good music stretching back over hundreds of years of Appalachian history that I could write for years and never run out of tunes!
When the Roses Bloom Again
When the Roses Bloom Again is a beautiful love story about a soldier who has to leave his lover to go off to battle. He promises her that he won’t be gone long, and that he’ll return to her “when the roses bloom again”. Unfortunately, he’s caught in the fray of the battle, and knows he is beyond saving. His last request is to be taken to “the far and distant river where the roses are in bloom”, so he can be with his sweetheart one more time.
Now this one is a tune with some history. The first recorded version was all the way back in 1901. The recording was so old it was made at Thomas Edison’s laboratory!. At the time, the song was in the format of an old Tin Pan Alley pop tune, so not anything you’d think of as “mountain music”. However, folk singer Woody Guthrie, a famous collector of Appalachian music, added the song to his library. He never recorded it, but it was found in his archives in the 60s, and it was taken into the country music world.
In 1964, it was recorded by bluegrass legends the Carter Family, with a little help on vocals from June Carter’s good friend and fellow singer, Johnny Cash. (A few years later, that “friendship” would turn into a 36 year marriage and one of the greatest American love stories of all time, but that’s not a story for today.) It was a minor hit, but the song was largely forgotten again shortly afterward.
In 2002, the song was once again discovered after a search through Woody Guthrie’s archives (just like in the 60s!) by famous alt-country band Wilco. They did a new arrangement with folk singer Billy Bragg that was extremely popular and cemented the style of bluegrass/country arrangement that covers of the song since then have had.
Check out Laura Cantrell’s bluegrass arrangement of When the Roses Bloom Again. Her sweet voice gives it a romantic sound that can lift you right out of a gloomy day!
What’s your favorite love song? Let us know in the comments!