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.


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