Album: The Wayfaring Stranger
Artist: Burl Ives
Genre: English Folk
Long before he was the Snowman in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Burl Ives was an itinerant folk musician who wandered the United States during the Great Depression. With a warm, welcoming voice, it was only a matter of time before he found success. His 1944 release The Wayfaring Stranger is an early document of his non-holiday musical talents.
Nevertheless, The Wayfaring Stranger might not be the best predictor of what Ives was all about. The collection is heavily influenced by olde English folk ballads — slow, haunting, barren. Even still, Ives’ friendly singing brings these tunes to life, and it’s no surprise that the evocative title track became one of his signature songs.
Stranger’s influences predate turn-of-the-20th-century Appalachian styles (think Bascom Lamar Lunsford or Clarence Ashley) for the type of early music you’d probably find in Scotland circa 1750. All Ives needs to do is trade his guitar for a lute, and we’d be transported back to the 18th century.
The nice thing about traditional music is that it never really goes out of style. A good melody is a good melody, plain and simple. But for an even catchier melody, I’d suggest “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.”