Monday, October 22, 2012

Costumes and Masks: Ole John Bell (The Witch’s Curse)

Valerie Smith with Becky Buller : Ole John Bell (The Witch’s Curse)


I don’t care a whole lot for witches (except when singing along at the top of my lungs with the Eagles’ “Witchy Woman”). If you believe that “spirits walk beside you, can make you cursed, can make you bleed,” then you may also think that a real witch could curse, haunt and trouble you.

Whenever I see a witch in costume at my door on Halloween, I wonder if they’re real and am reminded of the Bell Witch legend. In a story that documents a terrifying, supernatural event in the 1800s, the Bell Witch ("Kate") haunted a pioneer family, murdered patriarch John Bell, and inflicted a reign of terror throughout the Tennessee countryside.

Bell Witch (the movie) premiered on September 24, 2005 at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. The soundtrack showcases bluegrass and old-time music from many artists associated with Tennessee’s Bell Buckle record label: Jimbo Whaley, Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike, Jeannette Williams Band, Jeff and Vida Band, Wells Family, and Becky Buller. The movie's premiere was broadcast in high-def via satellite to over 80 theaters throughout the U.S., definitely a first for bluegrass music.

The soundtrack for Bell Witch (the movie) emphasizes songs that bring plenty of apparitions to life. About a month ago, I used one of fiddler/singer/songwriter Becky Buller’s tunes for the birthstones theme. In the Bell Witch movie, she contributed five compositions. She (along with Valerie Smith and Kraig Smith) wrote the song, “Ole John Bell (The Witch’s Curse)” featured here today. Witch Kate's theme is presented in lean, rawboned fashion with only Valerie’s vocals and Becky’s fiddle as the ghost comes to curse, claim and torment Bell's “worthless soul.”

Back in 2005, Kraig Smith speculated that the movie premier was somewhat like “a duck on a pond, cruising serenely on the surface, but paddling like heck underwater.” The Bell Witch movie soundtrack was a big coup for these artists. It may not have had the same impact as “Deliverance,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” or “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” but it certainly shows that bluegrass and old-time music belong in the movies on a much more regular basis.

blog comments powered by Disqus