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Holly Hobbs

Holly Hobbs is a PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology at Tulane University, where she is working to design and launch a digital archive of hiphop music/oral history post-Katrina. Before relocating to New Orleans, Hobbs directed the youth nonprofit New Media Network in Columbia, Missouri while developing the Missouri Rural Crisis Center Documentary Film Series.

 

Abstract:

"Little Sparrows and Tender Maidens: Thoughts on Old and New World Balladry and Cautionary Tales"

This paper provides an outline of the dominant tropes in female cautionary tales within Anglo and Irish balladry before going on to examine their retentions in New World contexts and the roles played by folklorists in collecting and representing them.

Baby Please Don't Go: The City as Women's Ruin in American Roots Music

From the traditional "Katie Cruel" to Poison's "Fallen Angel," female characters in song tend to fare poorly when they strike out solo into urban spaces. The transition from the country to the city, in lyrics, is a dead giveaway that by the end of the song, the woman who stepped off the Greyhound bus alone on the Sunset Strip (or any analogue of that) will be dead, drinking alone, using drugs, turning tricks, pregnant out of wedlock, or some combination thereof. Conversely, songs that begin with a woman in the straits described are likely to reveal by the end that the whole problem is that once, long ago, her purer, fresher self made the damning decision – whether out of ambition, financial need, or the ever-popular duping by a cad who promised marriage - to head for the bright lights on her own.

Focusing on songs performed by women and using audio and video examples, this panel will discuss the enduring popularity of this creepy cautionary storyline in American roots music, its origins in Anglo-European balladry (whose writers arguably had genuine need to keep their women down on the farm) and contemporary variations on it.