Southern Creatives – Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” Grows in Red Dirt Music

photo credit: Isolino via photo pin cc

The Connection Between Southern Gothic Literature and Red Dirt Music

Interested in cute little songs about young love or the joy of living? What about reading stories where the guy always gets the girl? If so, you won’t  like Southern Gothic Literature or Red Dirt Music.

But, if your tastes are geared more towards a grittier view of relationships and society, then you may become a fan of both Southern Gothic Literature and Red Dirt music.

Both are characterized by exposing a specific audience to the dark underbelly of a particular society.

What is Red Dirt music?

While it is difficult to find a standard definition of this musical genre, it is characterized by its origins in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and the red dirt found there. Some other terms that are associated with Red Dirt music included “Americana” and “Outlaw Country.” A few musicians who label themselves as part of the Red Dirt movement include Stoney LaRue, Jason Boland, and Brandon Rhyder.

In an article by Wally Kennedy about red dirt music, he said, “some define Red Dirt music as ‘country music with an attitude’.”

What is Southern Gothic Literature?

Southern Gothic Literature and its most well known authors, William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor focus on stories that bring to light flawed characters and distortions within society.

One definition of Southern Gothic literature comes from the NEA – National Endowment for the Arts, Southern Gothic literature includes “deeply flawed characters, decayed or derelict settings, and other sinister events relating to or coming from poverty, racism, and violence.”

The Connection

Both Red Dirt music and Southern Gothic literature focus on elements of Southern society that are specific to the geographical area, and they both bring to light unsavory details that other art forms may want to overlook or dismiss.

Looking at how relationships are portrayed in an example of Red Dirt music and Southern Gothic literature gives an insight into their similar perspectives:

From Brandon Rhyder’s song “You Burn Me,”

I thought that you moved on,

Tell me why are you back?

Did he figure out all your crazy, deceiftul ways?

But this time it’s not gonna work.

This time I’m standing clear of the time bomb you are

And the time bomb you’ve always been

And, too, we see a darker portrayal of love in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying

He had a word, too. Love he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn’t need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear. 

What’s the Point?

Separated by time and form, there is still a connection between Southern Gothic literature and Red Dirt music. Both touch on the particular aspects of Southern Culture, that while these elements may not be savory or appropriate for polite conversation, they are still ingrained in our southern psyche and deserve to be brought to light.

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. William Faulkner on the Web. 10 June 2010.
Kennedy, Wally. “Dig that ‘Red Dirt’ sound.” Joplin Globe, 26 May 2006. Retrieved June 2012.
Rhyder, Brandon. “You Burn Me” song lyrics. Head Above Water, album, 2010.
Southern Gothic Literature. National Endowment for the Arts. Big Read.

About melindamcguirewrites

The young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. ------ William Faulkner, Nobel Prize Speech, Stockholm, 1950
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3 Responses to Southern Creatives – Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” Grows in Red Dirt Music

  1. Tonya Rice says:

    Love this exploration, Melinda!

    It’s raw stuff – Southern Lit. Real, with a strong edge on a sunny day or a nasty rainy day, and with my voice, diction, dialect, idioms, etc… It can be ugly, but can’t life be at times? 🙂 Faulkner could get to the bones. In oral history, we heard the nice tales growing up, but for some reason, the sad and tragic ones are those I could visualize when told and still remember.

    • Tonya,
      Thank you for your beautiful comment. I LOVE hearing from other Southern literature fans – especially Southern Gothic readers. Your comment “Faulkner could get to the bones” = brilliant! It’s in my head now 🙂
      So glad to see you here.

  2. zencherry says:

    You had me at Faulkner. Now I have to check out Red Dirt music. 😉

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