Windows to Sky | Tom Dula: Madness Made Us Wild; a Play in Five Verses and a Hanging

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Tom Dula: Madness Made Us Wild; a Play in Five Verses and a Hanging

by Windows to Sky

Windows to Sky with SJ Tucker, our original reinvention of the "Tom Dula" story for the Neil Young Americana Contest, June 2012
Genre: Folk: Traditional Folk
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1. Tom Dula: Madness Made Us Wild; a Play in Five Verses and a Hanging (feat. Sj Tucker)
5:46 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Love. Murder. Syphilis. Justice?

The Kingston Trio version of this tale kickstarted the folk revolution and changed the world. I grew up singing "Hang down your head, Tom *clap* Dooley!" at school and at camp. I was even paying vague tribute to it when I wrote "Lullaby Worth Something", which starts with a parallel "Hang your head slowly". But when choosing an American folk song to reimagine for the Neil Young Americana Song Contest, I noticed the name was spelt "Tom Dula". Could this be the same guy, with the head?

I spent the afternoon on Google:
He swore innocence, but there was a full confession found later.
He was sleeping with three cousins, one of whom had “the pox” (Syphilis), and soon, all were slowly dying.
He had fought in the Civil War and saw his friends die.
He was sentenced twice - the first time, with no evidence.
Then they found the body, folded up in a small shallow grave.
She said she was pregnant. He replied that he'd marry her. Perhaps both of them were lying.
He was hanged, a disarmingly handsome lad, 23 years old.

I found many versions of the song, few alike.
Words and chords, melody and structure differ wildly, as well as the verdict.
In some, he’s hanging his head with guilt; in others, with the helpless despair of an innocent; in ours, I wanted it ambiguous, as it really was. "Hang down your head," he shouts from the gallows, at thousands of lookie-loos who came from miles around to see the end of the local scandal of the generation.

I combined my favorite parts of all the versions I could find - from Doc Watson's, from the old 78 by Grayson & Whitter, from Bill Morrissey & Greg Brown. I wrote yet another melody for poor Tom, with tiny quoted references to those that came before. I penned some of my own lines for it, based on verbatim statements in court transcripts and newspaper articles.

Spent a month recording it at home with friends, working it out as we recorded. I played guitars and piano, and sang. Stayed up all night until the final day of the contest, adding bass and mixing. Our magical friend SJ Tucker volunteered harmonies.

Somehow this became the largest recording I’ve ever done (nearly 100 digital tracks!), and all in just over a month.

Sure, there are things that didn't work perfectly. We'll do the complete, ultimate, definitive version of this song sooner or later. But we still think it's pretty good, tiny flaws and all.

Written, arranged, produced by Joseph of Windows to Sky, based on the traditional North Carolina folksong "Tom Dooley"

Joseph - Acoustic and electric guitar, piano, electric bass, vocals.
SJ Tucker - Chilling harmony.
rY. - Flugelhorn, trumpet, and imaginary trombone.
Alana - Violin.
Danny - Acoustic guitar.
Lance - Drums / percussion.



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