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REBECCA ROBERTS:

In a world of highly produced popular music, where the vocals share the stage with a variety of instruments, the notion of a single voice singing without an accompaniment sounds almost revolutionary.

In this week's What's In A Song, we meet Elizabeth LaPrelle from Rural Retreat, Virginia. She's a young artist who sings ballads that resonate like an old fiddle. LaPrelle remembers coming across one of her favorite songs years ago, when she was leafing through a book of ancient Mountain tunes.

Ms. ELIZABETH LAPRELLE (Singer): And I flipped to the page and I was like, oh, yeah, "Black Is The Color," and I hadn't practiced it. But I started to sing it and I just felt so awesome. I felt like I was doing it right.

(Singing) Black is the color of my true love's hair. His face is like summer, rosy fair, with the prettiest face and the neatest hands. I love the ground whereon he stands...

Ms. LAPRELLE: It's a touching song and it's about separated love. So there's this really, you know, just a sense of longing to the song but also this sort of bitter edge. One of the lines is: If you on Earth, no more I see.

(Singing) If you, no more on Earth I see.

Ms. LAPRELLE: I can't serve you as you served me...

(Singing) I can't serve you as you have me.

Ms. LAPRELLE: ...which I think is so cutting, really. You know, like, even if I never were going to see you again, I still couldn't treat as badly as you'd treated me, you know?

(Singing) So fair thee well, my own true love. Our time has passed but I wish you well...

Ms. LAPRELLE: I think the fact that it is so spare, just one person speaking, people aren't used to that. You know, suddenly they're just riveted to these words that are coming out. And, you know, it can be really terrifically moving. And I love it a lot.

(Singing) I love my love and well he knows. I love the ground whereon he goes. If you, no more on earth I see, I can't serve you as you have me.

ROBERTS: What's In a Song is produced by Hal Cannon and Taki Telonidis of the Western Folklife Center.

(Soundbite of banjo music)

ROBERTS: And for more on our series What's in a Song, go to NPRMusic.org.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Liane Hansen returns next week. I'm Rebecca Roberts.

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