If we really have no choice but to endure winter (other than high-tailin’ it toward the equator), we might as well give in, cozy up, and spin some wintry bluegrass songs. Cold rain, cold snow, cold wind, cold hearts … some folks like the summertime when they can walk about, but wintertime … well, it’s a season that happens, too.
Tony Rice — “Girl From the North Country”
The north country = where the wind blows cold on the borderline. It feels like Tony sings about winter and its themes quite a lot. It just fits.
Emmylou Harris — “Roses in the Snow”
Not to throw around the term “iconic,” but this one is iconic. We’re familiar with the idea that love is like the seasons, but this time, love is like a greenhouse. It can grow roses in the snow! It’s a refreshing twist on a concept that usually ends up with the flower of love frozen over and wilted in the cold.
Larry Sparks — “Snow Covered Mound”
The only conscionable reason to highlight any recording of this song besides Ralph Stanley’s is … Larry Sparks. His voice captures winter and its grief perfectly. It will send a shiver up your spine.
The Osborne Brothers — “Listening to the Rain”
Some places aren’t lucky enough to enjoy the austere beauty of snow in the winter months, getting rain, and gray, and mud, and gloom instead. Of course, cold rain with a heapin’ helpin’ of lost love sounds about right.
Ronnie Bowman — “Cold Virginia Night”
IBMA’s 1995 Song of the Year leans into the cold heart metaphor. It is beautiful. And catchy. And still reverberating off the walls and in the halls of every former IBMA convention host hotel.
Jim Mills — “Sledd Ridin’”
If you gloss over the strange spelling of “sledd,” you’ll find this rollicking banjo tune feels like a day spent on the snowy neighborhood hill. Time for hot cocoa.
Reno & Smiley — “Love Oh Love Oh Please Come Home”
In a dynamic twist, the woman has left the man alone, at home, with their baby, while the snow has covered up the ground.
Del McCoury — “Rain And Snow”
It’s a murder ballad. It’s a lover’s lament. It’s sung in an astronomically high register. And it’s pretty sexist. It’s bluegrass to a T. It also happens to be a goddamn classic. Del McCoury does it right.
J.D. Crowe & the New South — “Ten Degrees and Getting Colder”
Somehow the saddest part of this song isn’t that he’s traded off his Martin. This song is a masterpiece and distillate of the troubles of a working musician: The coldest months are always the hardest months.
Bill Monroe — “Footprints in the Snow”
Once again, we are reminded that the father of bluegrass not only originated the genre, he’s responsible for a good many of its themes, too. In this case, winter isn’t an analog for heartbreak; it’s a silver lining, guiding the song’s speaker to his love via her footprints. You can’t trace footprints in the summer!