The Ash Grove Playlist

From my very first attempt to write the nov­el that even­tu­al­ly became The Shad­ow and the Rose, music played an impor­tant role. Since I orig­i­nal­ly set the sto­ry in 19th-cen­tu­ry Scot­land, I began col­lect­ing tra­di­tion­al Celtic bal­lads, espe­cial­ly those that use the rose as a sym­bol of love, like “Tam Lin,” the inspi­ra­tion for my book. When I revamped the sto­ry to set it among mod­ern-day high school stu­dents, most of those songs start­ed to feel irrelevant—but I was also freed up to look to more recent music for inspi­ra­tion. Here is a very mixed bag of songs that some­how relate to the Ash Grove books.

Tam Lin” (Fair­port Convention)—There are many dif­fer­ent record­ings of the Tam Lin bal­lad, just as there are numer­ous ver­sions of the bal­lad lyrics. The Fair­port Con­ven­tion record­ing is a clas­sic ver­sion from the 1970s folk explo­sion, when lots of artists became fas­ci­nat­ed with cen­turies-old folk bal­lads. I’ve includ­ed two oth­er, very dif­fer­ent, ver­sions of “Tam Lin” on this playlist.

Just Say Yes” (Snow Patrol)—I kept hear­ing this on the radio when I was start­ing to write Cast­ing Shad­ows, and it has a yearn­ing feel­ing that made me think of William’s unex­pressed love for Mad­die. It was a par­tial inspi­ra­tion for “She Says Yes,” the song I wrote for William in two dif­fer­ent ver­sions (which appear in Cast­ing Shad­ows and Among the Shad­ows).

She Sheila” (The Producers)—An old favorite from a great Atlanta band, the Pro­duc­ers, still (hap­pi­ly) mak­ing music today. This song works its way into both Cast­ing Shad­ows and Among the Shad­ows. Love this live performance—not sure what’s going on with Wayne Famous on key­boards, though!

Run­aways” (The Killers)—Released while I was writ­ing Cast­ing Shad­ows, this Spring­steen­ian anthem seemed to cap­ture Joy’s fears in that chap­ter of her rela­tion­ship with Tan­ner: that some­day he, like the speak­er in the song, would look back at his lost youth and find him­self too rest­less to stay set­tled down with his wife and child. But the song also car­ries the tri­umphant reas­sur­ance that, wher­ev­er the rest­less guy runs to, he’s tak­ing the girl he loves with him… as Mad­die and Tasha try to reas­sure Joy.

Cuts You Up” (Peter Murphy)—I love the mys­te­ri­ous, bit­ter­sweet qual­i­ty of this song. Amaz­ing­ly enough, it wasn’t until about 20 years after its record­ing that I first heard it. This is the accom­pa­ni­ment and verse struc­ture I had in mind when I wrote the lyrics to “She Says Yes,” although SSY—the first ver­sion, anyway—would have an angri­er arrange­ment.

Kiss From a Rose” (Seal)—This clas­sic mod­ern love song reminds William of how Joy and Tan­ner met. Con­fes­sion time: up until I was actu­al­ly writ­ing Cast­ing Shad­ows I thought the lyric was “…a rose on a grave,” and that’s why I had William choose this song. I was ter­ri­bly dis­mayed to find out I had mis­heard the lyric for years and it didn’t work as well for my char­ac­ters as I’d thought… but I still love the song’s sweep­ing qual­i­ty, prob­a­bly enhanced by being in waltz time. See the Delet­ed Scenes page for the argu­ment about the lyrics that I end­ed up writ­ing and then dis­card­ing.

Under the Ivy” (Kate Bush)—I love this sim­ple love song’s haunt­ing, long­ing qual­i­ty. I real­ly want­ed to write a sim­i­lar song for Joy’s mes­sage to Tan­ner in The Shad­ow and the Rose, but I couldn’t fig­ure out how to imi­tate some­thing that was already per­fect, so I went with a much old­er type of bal­lad instead. This inti­mate glimpse of a lovers’ ren­dezvous seems exact­ly right for Joy and Tan­ner, as Kate sings, “Go into the gar­den.… Go right to the rose, go right to the white rose—I’ll be wait­ing for you.”

The Bri­ar and the Rose” (Tom Waits)—I first heard this song in an ethe­re­al cov­er by female singer Niamh Par­sons, and I thought it was a tra­di­tion­al Celtic folk song—not sur­pris­ing­ly, because Waits so per­fect­ly cap­tures the bal­lad con­ven­tions of trag­ic romance in a pas­toral set­ting, right down to the sym­bol­ism of the bri­ar and rose entwined. I had Tan sing this song to Joy in Cast­ing Shad­ows as a nod to the way their love sto­ry began. Like Joy, I’m not a Tom Waits fan in gen­er­al, but this song moves me every time.

Tam Lin” (Anaïs Mitchell and Jef­fer­son Hamer)—A new set­ting of the “Tam Lin” bal­lad from the duo’s 2013 album of Child bal­lads, this ver­sion removes the queen of faery and many of the super­nat­ur­al ele­ments. The result is a more inti­mate love sto­ry with­out a love tri­an­gle, but it still has that cen­tral sit­u­a­tion of hold­ing on to the one you love even when they show you their fright­en­ing side.

The Elvi­ra Madi­gan con­cer­to (W.A. Mozart)—This Mozart piano con­cer­to became known by this name because it was fea­tured in the 1967 movie Elvi­ra Madi­gan, a trag­ic love sto­ry. Mad­die (Elvi­ra Madi­gan Rosen­baum) is named for the con­cer­to, not the movie hero­ine, as her father is a pianist.

Tam Lin” (Medi­ae­val Baebes)—A shiv­ery, ethe­re­al ver­sion of the bal­lad that I find deli­cious­ly eerie—but sore­ly abbre­vi­at­ed.