The Friday Morning Listen: Red Molly – Love and Other Tragedies (2008)

I’ve been spending a lot of time over recent weekends doing something I haven’t done in a long time: listening to the radio. There’s this community radio station where I live, WERU, that plays a ton of music I’ve never heard before. For most folks, that’s a reason to tune in elsewhere. For me, it’s absolute heaven. So last Sunday, I hear this song called “Old Dancing Fool.” I didn’t know who the group was, but the gorgeous harmonies and the waltz time drew me in. As it turned out, it was Red Molly, a folk trio who I’ve heard a lot about (but haven’t actually heard) because they play the New England area quite a bit.

Before I discovered who was playing the song, all sorts of ideas kept popping up, the most insistent of which was that the tune reminded me of “Dear Someone” by Gillian Welch. So I go looking for this “Old Dancing Fool” song. It’s on their album Love and Other Tragedies. But that came out in 2008, so another peek reveals that they have a new record, Light in the Sky … which leads off with their version of “Dear Someone.” Woah! It’s folk synchronicity. Or something.

Both “Dear Someone” and “Old Dancing Fool” share the ability to stop me in my tracks. “Devastating” is the word that a friend of mine uses. Is it the close harmonies? The waltz time? Hard to tell. The Red Molly song seems like a simple offer of love, to dance this waltz that’s come by at just the right time. But then things get quiet and this verse comes up:

And if we close our eyes and hold on to each other
Who knows baby, we may discover
That the world slips away and we can dance without movin’ at all

… and on that last line, every single bit of my world drops away so that I can contemplate this one perfect moment, of two people in love, separate from everything else.

It’s not just the words or the music. I don’t know what it is but tears come to my eyes. It’s powerful stuff … stuff that I wish more people cared about.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • Karen Martin

    George Wirth wrote “Old Dancing Fool.” He’s a wonderful poet–check out some of his other songs…although this one is my favorite!

  • Mark Saleski

    yes karen, i discovered that last night and made a note to check him out! thanks.

  • http://www.georgewirth.net/ George Wirth

    Right around the time Red Molly was forming Abbie invited me to trade some songs with her at a solo show she was doing in Central Jersey. One of the songs was “Old Dancing Fool”, written for my wife Brenda and included on my first album. Abbie seemed to really like it and when Red Molly came together they would occasionally cover the tune at their shows. Time passed and one day I got a letter from Laurie telling me they were recording it for the new CD. It’s a beautiful version and an indescribable honor to have them include it on “Love and Other Tragedies”. Anyone reading this who has not had the pleasure of seeing Red Molly live should make it a point to catch them first chance they get. They’re the best.

    Thanks for spreading the message and for the kind words about the song.

    All the best.

    George Wirth

  • Pet erdale

    Gulf Coast Highway, off their album James, has the same close harmonies. RM are the best!

  • http://herb-gardner.com Herb Gardner

    You’ve got to hear one of their live shows. They’re even better (and funnier) live than on CD. Catch them at the Peterborough Players next April 7th.
    By the way, Abbie (dobro) is named after her great-great grandmother, Abbie Washburn, organist for the Hancock, NH Congregational Church in the late 1800’s.