Wild Ox MOan
"Wild Ox Moan" is a song by Vera Hall first written in 1937.
Hall was born at Paynesville, Sumter County, Alabama, near Livingston, and sang her entire life. Her mother and father, Agnes Efron and Zully Hall, taught her songs such as "I Got the Home", "In the Rock" and "When I'm Standing Wondering, Lord, Show Me the Way". Hall married Nash Riddle, a coal miner, in 1917 and gave birth to their daughter, Minnie Ada. Riddle was killed in 1920. In the late 1930s, Hall's singing gained national exposure.
John Avery Lomax, ethnomusicologist, met Hall in the 1930s and recorded her for the Library of Congress. Lomax wrote that she had the loveliest voice he had ever recorded. The BBC played Hall's recording of "Another Man Done Gone" in 1943 as a sample of American folk music. Earlier, The Library of Congress played the song in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1937. In 1945, Hall recorded with Byron Arnold. In 1984, the recordings were released as a collection of folk songs entitled Cornbread Crumbled in Gravy.
In 1948, with the help of Alan Lomax, Hall traveled to New York and performed on May 15 at the American Music Festival at Columbia University. During the course of this trip, Lomax interviewed Hall on several occasions, later stating "Her singing is like a deep-voiced shepherds flute, mellow and pure in tone, yet always with hints of the lips and the pleasure-loving flesh...The sound comes from deep within her when she sings, from a source of gold and light, otherwise hidden, and falls directly upon your ear like sunlight. It is a liquid, full contralto, rich in low overtones; but it can leap directly into falsetto and play there as effortlessly as a bird in the wind."
Hall died in January 1964 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Today, her work still garners attention. Prized by scholars and folk song enthusiasts, Hall's recordings include examples of early blues and folk songs that are found nowhere else.