Carolina in the Pines: origins of Michael Murphey's love song

Blue Sky – Night Thunder LP cover
Blue Sky – Night Thunder LP cover
Carolina in the Pines is a seminal track by Michael Murphey, a highly influential country-genre artist with over thirty albums under his belt, six of which achieved gold status. The song first appeared on his groundbreaking 1975 album Blue Sky - Night Thunder, although it would later be released as a single to enter national charts.
Many of Murphey's fans that hail from North and South Carolina are convinced that the song references their state and the mountains of those regions, but Murphey himself contradicted the theory by sharing the story of writing Carolina in the Pines in an interview.
According to Murphey, Carolina in the Pines is a love song dedicated to his wife Caroline Hogue and dates back to the time the couple moved from Texas to the Colorado highlands where most of Blue Sky - Night Thunder's tracks were composed.
Listen to Carolina In the Pines by Michael Martin Murphey:
Compositionally, Carolina in the Pines follows the tonal theory and features chord progressions representing the Ionian mode. In the harmonic analysis of the verses' chord chains, the scale degrees (denoted with Roman numerals) show the chord progressions in the key of B major:
  • B–F♯7–E–B or I–V7–IV–I;
  • E–D♯m–C♯m–B or IV–iii–ii–I.
The first progression is quite typical of various genres including blues where almost every song exhibits a similar chord chain (three primary major chords of the Ionian mode) as you can see from the following examples:
The second progression shows a stepwise movement of the triads rooted in the fourth, third, second, and first degrees of the major scale.
Note that both progressions end with different plagal cadences IV–I and ii–I generally used by classical composers and popular songwriters to complete musical phrases.
Discover more songs composed in Ionian major mode and check out their harmonic analysis in the following articles:
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