I’m a sucker for a good story song, especially when that story is sad and doesn’t have a clear ending.
It’s the reason why “Don’t Take the Girl” is the best Tim McGraw song and “Coward of the County” is the most underrated Kenny Rogers song.
Both have a compelling story with an ending that is left just open enough that you’re not sure what happens to the singer or their loved ones.
That’s why it’s always shocked me that Chris Stapleton’s “Scarecrow in the Garden” from his album From A Room: Volume 2 isn’t talked about more.
Let’s be honest though. Both volumes of From A Room are pretty underrated because of the masterpiece that is Traveller, and while I love that album, so many songs on From A Room are insanely good like “A Simple Song,” “Drunkard’s Prayer,” and “Either Way.”
And “Scarecrow in the Garden” may be the best off both volumes.
The song chronicles a family who moved from Northern Ireland to West Virginia and became farmers. The farm is profitable for the family, but the chorus gives a more ominous view of what may come of this family:
“There’s a scarecrow in the garden
That looks like Lucifer
And I’ve been reading Revelations
With my bare feet in the dirt”
Who “I” is isn’t confirmed until the second verse when we find out that he is the descendent of the man who first came to West Virginia.
From here, we begin to learn about the fate of this farm and why the singer seems so contemplative and worried despite us being told that the farm has been so good to the family:
“The fields ain’t what they once were
The rains just seem to flood”
The farm has gone downhill since the singer has taken over. Now, the singer reading Revelations makes more sense. While this certainly isn’t an apocalyptic scenario, it does seem like the end of something, the end of this man’s livelihood and his family’s legacy.
The final and most ominous lines of this song leave us with this sinking feeling that it might not be the end of just the farm but also the man’s life:
“I’ve been sitting here all morning
I was sitting here all night
There’s a bible in my left hand
And a pistol in my right”
This song isn’t sad in the traditional sense, and I can’t say that it emotionally scarred be like “Maggie’s Song.” But there is something so deeply depressing about seeing generations of prosperity just be gone.
While Chris Stapleton is know for his big, belting voice, this song is so subdued that you can feel the emptiness of the man in the song, and in the last two lines, the instruments cut out, denoting once again that whatever happens right after the song is over is most likely a permanent ending.