Hear an Enchanted Medieval Cover of Dolly Parton’s Classic Ode to Jealousy, “Jolene”

Dol­ly Parton’s “Jolene” is an end­less­ly renew­able resource of beau­ti­ful sad­ness, and many a mod­ern-day bard has a “Jolene” in their quiver. The White Stripes turned it into garage rock, Olivia New­ton John did it as dis­co, and Norah Jones as cabaret jazz. There is the oblig­a­tory house remix. Slow it down to 33rpm and Dolly’s gen­der begins to blur, while her voice los­es none of its plain­tive mys­tique. “Jolene” set a stan­dard for melan­choly few, if any, tunes can meet. So, you know, there’s a bard­core cov­er of “Jolene.”

Bard­core (also called “tav­ern­wave”), has “tak­en over pop music,” kind of, as you might have learned from Ayun Halliday’s post on bard­core artist Hilde­gard von Blin­gin’ here a few weeks back. The short version—bardcore artists make cov­ers of pop songs with medieval instru­men­ta­tion and vocal stylings. Lyrics are rewrit­ten with archaisms like “I want thine ugly, I want thy disease/Take aught from thee shall I if it can be free,” which are not lyrics to “Jolene,” let’s move on.

What does “Jolene” sound like as bard­core? In a word, spell­bind­ing. And I don’t mean to be cheeky—this is enchant­i­ng, not least because, medieval­ized, the song sounds at times like it could be com­ing from a tor­tured nun on the edge of leav­ing the clois­ter in the dead of night to run off with a woman named Jolene, whose attrib­ut­es she lov­ing­ly, poet­i­cal­ly lays out.

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I beg of thee, pray take not my lord
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I fear, from thee, ‘twould take naught but a word

Thy beau­ty is beyond com­pare
With flam­ing locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emer­ald green
Thy smile is like a breath of Spring
Thy voice is soft like Sum­mer rain
And I can­not com­pete with thee

An ode to jeal­ousy hints at a poten­tial­ly spicy tale of for­bid­den romance and bro­ken vows, fur­ther trib­ute to Parton’s skill as a song­writer (and the sex­u­al ambi­gu­i­ty inher­ent in the song). Hilde­gard von Blin­gin’ is not jok­ing, nov­el­ty names aside. She has a love­ly voice and has invest­ed her medieval cov­ers with high pro­duc­tion val­ues and peri­od-cor­rect illu­mi­nat­ed music videos.

Every­one lis­tens to house music in Hol­ly­wood sci-fi futures, but maybe it’s bard­core they’ll play on the inter­stel­lar cruise ships. “’Tis a ver­i­ta­ble phe­nom­e­non on t’internet,” says bard­core cre­ator Cor­nelius Link (which means it could go the way of vapor­wave). For years, medieval memes have been hot online cur­ren­cy, for rea­sons we need not get too pop-soci­o­log­i­cal about. They’re fun and weird and alien and WTF and remind us that it could be worse, I guess. They appeal to Gen Z’s “exis­ten­tial humour.” They were Games of Thrones-y. They’re cool­er than Har­ry Pot­ter.

For most of medieval times, plague was on everyone’s mind. “The pan­dem­ic is thought to be sig­nif­i­cant,” says Link, “with a new Black Death hov­er­ing over us all.” But if we’re talk­ing about “Jolene,” we’re talk­ing about a song that “reg­is­ters with the basest of bit­ter­ness we’ve all felt,” hith­er and thith­er, shut up in con­vents or locked down in our hous­es. Explore more not-“Jolene” bard­core jams here.

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lis­ten to Medieval Cov­ers of “Creep,” “Pumped Up Kicks,” “Bad Romance” & More by Hilde­gard von Blin­gin’

Dol­ly Parton’s “Jolene” Slowed Down to 33RPM Sounds Great and Takes on New, Unex­pect­ed Mean­ings

With Medieval Instru­ments, Band Per­forms Clas­sic Songs by The Bea­t­les, Red Hot Chili Pep­pers, Metal­li­ca & Deep Pur­ple

Pink Floyd’s “Anoth­er Brick in the Wall” Played with Medieval Instru­ments, and Kick­start More Medieval Cov­ers

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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