(This series was originally started during All Hallow’s Month. I didn’t get too far with it, though, so I decided to revive it and run the pieces that I had planned to during October over the next few months. Here’s the first.)
I find country music to be the scariest kind of music. And that’s not some joke at country’s expense. I love country music. Not the bullshit-Nashville-spit-shined variety. Not that Faith Hill, middle of the road pablum-laced, easy piety kind. The alt.country, the old-timey ballads, the outlaws from the 70s. That’s great music and no one can argue out of that.
What makes country so powerfully primed for frightening music is its sincere belief, as a foundation of the genre, in the existence of the weird and frightening (coming into the music from its balladic roots – think songs like Barbara Allen, Fatal Flower Garden, or Henry Lee to get a sense of this), evil and the devil (coming in from gospel and the religious upbringings of many of its songwriters), its simple (not simplistic) lyrics, its ethereal notes, and its deep reverb.
The Meat Purveyor’s “I Have a Devil in Me” puts all of these elements into play to create a song that only becomes more chilling as you listen more closely to the lyrics and fill in some of the gaps created by the narrator’s skewed perspective.
“I Have a Devil in Me” is a song about someone who believes that they are possessed and that this devil makes them act in the self-destructive, dangerous, erratic way that they do. The narrator blames on her devil actions like crashing her car, cutting off hair, breaking down crying for no reason, and more.
The song is clearly about a schizophenic, but conveys this information in countrified/biblical way ? after all, don’t we now read the biblical stories of possession as being about mental illness?
But that’s an interpretation for the observer, and this is a first-person narration. Imagine the stark terror of doing these things, fodiscerniblenable reason, if you’re the person doing them. The simple, unadorned narration of the things the “devil” compels the narrator to do become chilling when contrasting the interior monologue to what observers would be seeing in the same instances:
He makes me cut off my hair
He makes me total my car
He makes me break down and cry
The song also taps into a feeling of a greater, pervading sense of doom or evil that swirls around the narrator:
I have a devil in me
The way the wind blows the trees
The way it rustles the leaves
The voices talking to me
He makes me put down the phone
He makes me pick up the gun
I have a devil in me
Add the disconcerting lyrics to the flat, repetitious twanging of guitars and banjos and you have an affecting, affectless song about the real fears brought on by mental illness.