After listening to different versions of “On the Banks of the Ohio”, I have to say that Johnny Cash’s version had the biggest effect on me. I expected there to be some changes throughout the song, whether they had to do with Cash’s voice or the way he played the guitar. Instead, the rhythm and and melody stayed constant throughout, which made the lyrics have a bigger effect. Johnny’s expression says consistent throughout, whether he is talking about walking with his love, or murdering her. It was also interesting to hear the changes in lyrics in Cash’s version of the song when compared to other versions of “On the Banks of the Ohio.”
If one listened to the melody of this song, without hearing any of the lyrics, one might never guess what this song was about, or what the lyrics entailed. Thinking about this reminds me that this is considered a folk song, and it wouldn’t be so without there being any tension. The tension between the melody and lyrics is certainly there, and that idea is most clearly expressed when you come to realize that Cash sings “I asked my love to take a walk” in the exact same way as he does “I plunged a knife into her breast”. There is definitely still some despair that you can hear in Cash’s voice, but it still does not do justice to the events portrayed in the song.