The Ballad of Hollis Brown

I found some of the excellent covers of The Ballad of Hollis Brown and had to share.

The first is a hauntingly violent version by Iggy Pop and the Stooges:

I felt The Stooges gave it a very Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe to it; gritty and nasty and dirty with vocals so hollow and emaciated that it perfectly matched the story that a southern gothic author would have given it.

This second is from Nazareth:

The southern heavy blues of Nazareth made the song sound like it was set in a swamp rather than a South Dakota cabin, but it is just as mean and dirty as the Stooges version. It likewise has a very Texas Chainsaw vibe with the video, though, maybe a little more like the remake version than the Tobe Hooper original (if anyone knows what I’m talking about).

Both these bands seem to capture a lot of what Bob Dylan was infusing the song with himself: harsh, rugged reality of having no money to even feed yourself or your children that would drive a poor man to murder his own family just to put themselves out of their dusty misery. Dylan’s irony is encapsulated in the final line of the song, however: “Somewhere in the distance / There’s seven new people born”

Just because seven poor folks are gone, the world that hasn’t enough to go around has no fewer mouths it has to feed.

– Shaun Baker

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~ by shibadou on September 23, 2009.

One Response to “The Ballad of Hollis Brown”

  1. I think it’s interesting how the Stooges version sounded really far away, almost like it was recorded through a tunnel or a tube. It sounded like a very old recording, which made it quite haunting. The only problem I saw is that this technique muddies the words so they’re harder to understand, but it’s a neat take on the song.

    Nazareth is completely different, from the very beginning. The heavy drums and the bass are so oppressive! It makes it feel like this version is focusing more on the grisly nature of the song, rather than the tragedy in it. The sound also could be the feeling building up in Hollis Brown as he watched his family starving.

    Pretty cool stuff Shaun!

    -Chelsea Wright

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