Friday, September 17, 2010

The Western Tradition . . . Continued?

Heather Cox Richardson

When I teach the American West, I always
start the weeks on the American West as entertainment with “When the Work’s All Done This Fall,” the first cowboy song recorded by Carl T. Sprague. Appearing in 1925, it sold close to a million copies and remains a favorite old time western song.

I had always thought the poem on which the song was based reflected late nineteenth-century America, with its quick deaths, poverty, and sentimentality.

So imagine my surprise this summer, when I heard modern western songwriter Slaid Cleaves doing “Horses Quick as Dreams.” This seems almost to be an updated version of the classic song:

Is the song simply part of a musical tradition? Or is it a reflection of modern American culture?

1 comment:

Hans Eicholz said...

I suppose it is both really. Other songs that come to mind from the turn of the last century such as Bury Me Not (Cowboy's lament), and, of course "Little Joe the Wrangler" could also be source material for this later composition. Certainly they express the hardship of the late nineteenth century life on the range, but they also touch a nostalgic need in the present.