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The Devil's Nine Questions

from by Jayme Stone

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This song comes from Virginia ballad singer Texas Gladden. It tells the story of a
woman in conversation with the devil, who asks her a series of riddles. What is
whiter than the milk, louder than a horn, higher than a tree, and so forth. The song is
part of a larger epic called “Riddles Wisely Expounded,” Child Ballad No. 1 from
Francis James Child’s collection. The earliest version can be found in a handwritten
manuscript from 1450 housed at the Bodelian Library in Oxford.15 Texas learned the
song from ballad hunter Alfreda Peel who collected it from Mrs. Rill Martin, a
sawmill cook from Giles County, VA.16 Moira set the tune to a body percussion
pattern in a 9/8 rhythm from the Balkans, which fit the melody well and
serendipitously referenced the song’s title.


from Jayme Stone's Lomax Project, released March 3, 2015
Moira Smiley, Tim O’Brien, Margaret Glaspy, Mollie O’Brien, John Magnie, Martin Gillmore,
Jayme Stone (vocals, body percussion)


tags: folk world Denver


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