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Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Ten Murder Ballads That'll Slay You

Some great murder ballads there...Knoxville Girl has been done a lot, I recall versions of that by BR549 and Evan Dando, among many others...excellent Kate/Anne McGarrigle...the Sufjan Stevens video is definitely the road less travelled...yikes...

I have been working on murder ballads lately.  It seems there are a bunch of them in the Dorian mode.  That's not quite minor, but with the spooky feel that makes them interesting.  Here's one by a very young Molly Tuttle

and the classic old time version of Rain and Snow.

 

Three of my favorites.  As an added bonus, there is no scarier person than Munley in Slim Cessna.   He could play The Walkin' Dude in a remake of The Stand.   I ran into him coming out of the bathroom at a club in Ottawa..... Uuuggghhhhh......

 

 

 

 

 

the Violent Femmes is a great song title as well as murder ballad...and I am pretty sure I know which one "Munley" is from the video, as I was not aware of this band prior to this post...

SCAC are the best live band on the planet Jim.   Munly is Slim's sidekick and releases solo albums as well including the excellent "Jimmy Carter Syndrome" about 15 years ago.    

Great list! For my money the Sufjan number is deeply frightening. Also check out John Lee Hooker's I'm Bad, Like Jesse James, it is absolutely cold-blooded....

Thanks for this piece, Ed. I often think the murder ballad is a much maligned set of moral lessons for us all. I hadn't thought about (or known) the breadth of them until your scholarly list appeared this morning. Many are familiar to me, some completely unknown, but I'll take a listen over the next few days, maybe while shivering in fear as the goblins appear at the door. 

By the way, I didn't know you were a Philly Guy. While we come from different generations and, I suspect, locales, that's always something to share. I grew up in the West Chester area, but spent lots of time in center city, and not so center, too. Thanks again. 

Thanks for this piece, Ed. I often think the murder ballad is a much maligned set of moral lessons for us all. I hadn't thought about (or known) the breadth of them until your scholarly list appeared this morning. Many are familiar to me, some completely unknown, but I'll take a listen over the next few days, maybe while shivering in fear as the goblins appear at the door. 

By the way, I didn't know you were a Philly Guy. While we come from different generations and, I suspect, locales, that's always something to share. I grew up in the West Chester area, but spent lots of time in center city, and not so center, too. Thanks again. 

Thanks for another interesting post Ed. Although you included a version of Nick Cave's "Henry Lee" with PJ Harvey I was surprised you didn't mention he released a whole album called "Murder Ballads" with some pretty astonishing songs. The most poignant to me was "Where the Wild Roses Grow" about a murder scene. He's also got a version of "Stagger Lee" that has to be one of the filtiest, bad-ass songs ever recorded. Speaking of "Stagger Lee" you could do a whole post on that song and its evolution and different versions. A favorite of mine is David Bromberg's version of "Mrs. DeLion's Lament" written by Jim Ringer.

Probably the most famous murder ballad, also not mentioned, is "Tom Dooley" made famous by the Kingston Trio but Neil Young did and interesting version called "Tom Dula" on his "Americana" album with Crazy Horse. They also do another murder related ballad called "Gallows Pole" on that album.

J McSpadden mentioned one of my favorites, John Lee Hooker's "I'm Bad Like Jesse James" and that song reminds me of another favorite, Peetie Wheatstraw's (a.k.a. The Devil's Son-In-Law) song "Gangster Blues."

I suppose all the Jesse James and Billy the Kid songs could be mentioned too by people like Ry Cooder, Joe Ely and many others.

Now what we need is a whole album of malicious wounding songs!

For those reading the newly released JFK documents......

Maybe a murder ballad, maybe not.

 

I'm going with yes...

Do attempted murder ballads count?  

 

Imagine...you found a Blasters tune to fit the category. Where’s Donavan?

Dennis?

I googled Donovan murder ballads, but the best Google could do was Aoife O'Donovan doing "Pretty Polly"...I liked it though,,,

https://youtu.be/2skhiQcfQ6M

Doesn’t the Universal Soldier kill people?

Yes Ed, I think "Universal Soldier" is about as close to a murder song we're going to find from Donovan. But of course, he didn't write it.

What about "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll"?

As I recall, William Zanzinger got 6 months for caning Hattie to death...that's a good one Mr. Mutt...

Good weird mix!

Good list. I really like this one by the Wild Ponies.

https://youtu.be/2nbK4hxhnQI

Lee Meredith's post reminds me of this Dixie Chicks classic.

 

Great list, Ed!  I would offer Eddie Nowack, "Psycho." Ultra creepy!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThEh7XhDmG8

 

Respectively submitted: the serial killer story "Sidney Wells."  The whole rhythm makes you feel on edge.  In concert he informs us that the whole rock n roll piece is a slip-jig transformed for murderous purposes!

 

In fact, Thompson is a treasure trove of dark tales - mining bloody traditional ballads, plus new material that sounds like it is traditional: "Crazy Man Michael."

Some others I like:

Jim White: The Wound That Never Heals

Elvis Costello's take on "Psycho"

Johnny Cash's version of "Delia/Delia's Gone"

I prefer David Bromberg's verison of "Delia" myself.

Can't talk about murder ballads without talking about this one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KvXteZkByE

Another murder ballad, which seems to be forgotten:

 

Sounds like it was forgotten for good reason ; )