From The Side of the Road… what your favorite song reveals about you

With 2021 beginning with the pandemic still in full force only more so, the question is what do we do with ourselves now? You’ve probably already binge-watched every TV series you weren’t too excited about in the first place. If you’re handy, you’ve already done every home project you ever wanted to do, and a few you didn’t. Perhaps you even found time to alphabetize, digitize, and sanitize your 1970s live bluegrass cassette collection. 

What’s left? There’s no money to spend on another addition to your house. There may not be enough to build an addition on to your bird house. Instead, you may have to turn inward and reevaluate every aspect of your life. That’s free, if not necessarily easy. I’m no psychologist (and if there’s a bigger understatement in this column than that, I’ll be sure to edit it out), but it would seem that step one would be to do a little self-analysis. There’s also no money to get a professional to do this, so you’re on your own.

What little pop psychology I know, I learned from a bluegrass shaman named Festus. I visited him accidentally once in the central Kentucky cave where he lives. I had innocently answered an ad he had placed selling a “pre-war D-18” for $175, which turned out to be a charcoal drawing of a pre-war D-18. It was actually a very nice drawing, and I purchased it after talking him down to $60. He also offered this bit of wisdom which I now pass on to you. 

After some interesting chit-chat about the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers’ RCA years, he told me that a good first step in getting to know yourself on a deeper level (deeper than Lonesome Pine Fiddlers RCA years chit-chat, that is) is to find out what your musical preferences say about your personality. 

Below, based on the Festus’ knowledge of the bluegrass psyche, are several popular bluegrass standards and what they might say about you if one of them is your personal favorite:

Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms

You have a happy-go-lucky approach to life. Workaholism is never going to be a problem for you. You’re physically affectionate and are secure enough not to care what people and their parents might think of you. These can be good qualities, but try not to wait for the return of your mythical “mail train” to live your life and accomplish what you’re capable of. 

Sitting On Top of the World

You’re self-assured, and if someone isn’t happy with what you offer, you’re fine to let him or her go. You show great resilience that way. Just make sure not to close people out of your life completely. Isn’t it possible for someone to stay in your orchard, even if they’re not happy with your peaches? There may even be something to learn from their criticism of your crop.

Little Cabin Home On the Hill

You, by contrast, have difficulty letting go. You have strong attachments to your home life and your loved ones, and that’s good, but if others choose different paths that lead them away from you and your home, try to avoid using the guilt trip or a wish for others’ unhappiness in order to bring them back. Keep the cabin of your heart a welcoming place and people who truly love you will return.

Dark Hollow

You’re a bit of a recluse, making you possibly one of the few people who have been enjoying the quarantine lifestyle of the past year. Avoid the tendency to run away from your problems by hopping the nearest freight train and going into hiding.

Banks of the Ohio

Under your generous exterior lies some deep insecurity with a need to control and possess other people. Work on accepting rejection and moving on. Someone else will come along, provided you learn to control your self-esteem issues and your tendencies toward violent solutions to your problems.

Down in the Willow Garden

Similar to above. You should never be invited to a picnic.


You’re someone who slips up hollers, which reflects your zest for life. You have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and you like to think big, whether it’s buying molasses in bulk or producing and sharing lots of your product with the community around you. Be careful that your generous spirit doesn’t allow you to be taken advantage of by people wanting free samples, promising to “pay you back someday.”

The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake

Seek therapy immediately.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.