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

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  126 ratings  ·  19 reviews
The underlying impetus here is that though we have learned much about ballads from folklorists, it is time to hear from novelists and story writers, artists and poets, songwriters and performers. Dave Marsh weighs in on Barbara Allen, R. Crumb on When You go A Courtin', Joyce Carol Oates on Little Maggie, and James Miller on El Paso. There are 23 e
Hardcover, 406 pages
Published November 16th 2004 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2004)
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Everyone Poops
A terrific read for both the novice and longtime enthusiast of the American Ballad, The Rose and the Briar is a compilation of non-academic essays as well as impressionistic takes on chosen material. We get a lyrical poem by Paul Muldoon inspired by "The Unfortunate Rake" and a four page illustration by painter/musician Jon Langford ("See Willy Fly By"), as well as a comic strip by R. Crumb ("When You Go A'Courtin'").

The essays themselves vary in nature and quality, but are always pretty access...more
Danielle Durkin
Jan 08, 2008 Danielle Durkin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Reading this for a class I'll be teaching/assisting for the author this fall.
These are shorter essays on songs and creative responses to songs that form the backbone of folk music in America. If you've any interest in American history or American music, these are easy to access and usually very sharp and good responses to dip into. Comes with a worthy CD, I believe.
Erik
Often compelling and provocative, but ultimately also quite frustrating for its unevenness. It seems like every other contributor has an axe to grind or a point to prove, that has little or nothing to do with the song they're ostensibly writing on.
Lisa
Really fascinating for the most part--a series of essays, stories, and other ruminations about American ballads. Not quite what I was expecting, but still quite enjoyable. And the cd of related songs is fantastic.
Matt
Super-duper mixed bag. Some stories/essays clever and revelatory, others are massive piles of self-indulgence.
iona
this is such a good collection of deep & creative essays. i'm really obsessed with all the songs.

i've always had a morbid fear/fascination with murder ballads, in particular the many many ballads in which a motive seems totally absent (pretty polly!) i took a russian folklore class once where we discussed a really ancient type of folktale that is found on all continents. basically a beloved and innocent woman must be sacrificed in order for some building to stand: in russia, a mason's wife...more
Patty
I often recommend to readers that if you get 50 pages into a book and you still don't like it, quit. Fortunately, I did not take my own advice with this book. Fifty pages had only taken me through three essays and I was struggling.

Had I stopped reading, I would have missed an amazing rant by R. Crumb, the history of Frankie and Albert, some very bizarre artwork by Jon Langford. And then there were the essays I really loved - one by Stanley Crouch about "Come Sunday", a discussion of Randy Newman...more
Kathy  Petersen
With a longstanding affection for folksong and story and the research thereof, I could be expected to like this volume a lot. It contains a host of different writers who explore just a few of the many, many aspects of American ballads, their origins, their travels, and their interpretations, from the ubiquitous Barbara Allen to such composers/performers as Dolly Parton and Bob Dylan. Also to be expected, because of the plethora of authors, is that some selections are better -- more interesting,...more
Ted
A real mixed bag.. some of these writers have too much time on their hands. Some essays were quite good, but others were rather "why bother".
Bruce
I categorize this anthology as both US and world history. The essays are about American ballads, but many of those sad songs are derived from 'old country' ballads. As in any collection of essays, some are better than others. There are different styles of writing and different understandings of music and culture. Some of the essays say more about our culture than the songs about which they are writing. The essay by Joyce Carol Oates is actually a short story and I, for a moment, thought it was a...more
Evan
A collection of essays about different ballads, from "Barbara Allen" down through a contemporary Latino love song. For the most part, the writing is thought-provoking, down-to-earth, and bullshit-free. A few of the contributors (music critics, novelists, essayists, musicians, the occasional poet) put interesting fictional spins on the songs; some dig into the histories behind them; thankfully few indulge their memoirist tendencies. Good stuff.
Danielle
this is a collection of essays about old ballads. most of them are great. if you like reading about music or are at all interested in traditional music, it's a great read. griel marcus put it together, and he's my favorite music writer.
Tad Richards
Historical background and literary appreciation of ballads from "Barbara Allen" to "El Paso." The short stories based on ballads, by Sharyn McCrumb and Joyce Carol Oates, are less successful.
Crystal
This volume is a fun companion for exploring Americana via Spotify, et cetera. RIYL American Studies and/or Greil Marcus.
Richard
An interesting set of essays on just what the title says, from the earliest Appalachian ballads to recent hip-hop.
Aubri
Can I use the word "interesting" to describe this one? It was. I love a good ballad. Now I know the rest of the story.
Lizzie
Jun 30, 2012 Lizzie marked it as to-read-off-my-shelf
I never finished reading all the pieces in this. What the heck is the matter with me? Fix.
Thomas
Great essays on American folk ballads.
Robert
Got bored with it.
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Sean Wilentz (b. 1951) is the Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor of History at Princeton University, where he has taught since 1979

In his spare writing time, he is historian-in-residence at Bob Dylan’s official website, www.bobdylan.com/
More about Sean Wilentz...
Bob Dylan in America The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008 Andrew Jackson (The American Presidents, #7) Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788-1850

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