View Full Version : Murder ballads

C. Carr
May-22-2007, 8:17am
This inevitable topic came up at last night's Bluegrass jam. What are your favorites? For the lawyers (like me), and other nitpickers please define "murder" to include any killing including "homicide", "manslaughter", "criminally negligent homicide", "justifiable homicide", "accidental killing" or "state sponsored execution".

Have fun!


Charlie Carr
New Orleans (The Nations Murder Capital)

May-22-2007, 8:33am
Banks of the Ohio (The "Three Picker" version is sweet!)
Pretty Polly
Frankie and Johnny (Doc and Dawg's version!)
Cocaine Blues
Tom Dooley

May-22-2007, 8:33am
Lady Margaret and Omie Wise are my favorites. Hoping to learn some new ones from this thread.


May-22-2007, 8:41am
The one-sided prenuptial agreement Banks of the Ohio and Little Sadie come to mind immediately.

May-22-2007, 8:48am
rain and snow(mccoury version)
long black veil


May-22-2007, 8:51am
I’ll throw in Mississippi John Hurt - Lewis Collings & Nobody’s Dirty Business

I do have a soft spot for murder ballads, Great stuff.

May-22-2007, 8:56am
Long Black Veil---I love the song, but does it count as a murder ballad?

Not trying to be picky just wondering!

Stanley Cox
May-22-2007, 8:57am
How about "Poor Ellen Smith" and "Eli Renfrow"

Stanley http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/coffee.gif

May-22-2007, 9:05am
Forgot one:
Never Let The Devil Get The Upper Hand Of You

May-22-2007, 9:06am
Long Black Veil is a murder song, somebody got murdered, the guy that hangs for it just didn't do the crime.

Walter Newton
May-22-2007, 9:20am
Caleb Meyer
Dreadful Wind and Rain
Cruel Willie

May-22-2007, 9:20am
Down in the Willow Garden--Tim O'Brien's version gets me every time!

May-22-2007, 9:21am
Only a few that could be considered "bluegrass".

"Jim Jones" #(trad. Australian) (Martyn Wyndham Read - Ned Kelly & That Gang) (stated intent of mass mayhem)
"Buffalo Skinners" trad. (John Renbourn - Faro Annie) (vengenance/payback)
"Les Trois P'tits Frères de Pontoise" - Gabriel Yacoub (Trad. Arr.) (execution, followed up with a reprisal #slaughter of the entire town)
"Lowlands of Holland" - trad (Steeleye Span - Hark The Village Wait)

"In Germany Before The War" - Randy Newman (Little Criminals) (serial murder)
"Murder In The Red Barn" - Tom Waits (Bone Machine) (serial murder)
"A Little Rain" - Tom Waits (Bone Machine)

"Dark Night" - The Blasters (Hard Road) (racial murder)

"Poor Will & The Jolly Hangman" - Richard Thompson/Fairport Convention (gov execution-hanging)
"Dirt In The Ground" - Tom Waits (Bone Machine) (govt. execution-hanging)
"Let Him Dangle" - Elvis Costello (Spike) (gov. execution-hanging)
"Hanging Blues " - Sons Of The Pioneers (JEMF album) (hanging)
"My Main Trial Is Yet To Come" - Stanley Bros. (execution-electrocution)
"Stone Walls & Steel Bars" - Stanley Bros. (execution)
"Danny Deaver" - Peter Bellamy/Rudyard Kipling (Barrack Room Ballads) (military execution-hanging)

"Romeo Is Bleeding" - Tom Waits (Blue Valentine) (robbery gone bad)
"Stagger Lee" - Lloyd Price
"Hey Joe" - Jimi Hendrix
"Machine Gun" - Hendrix (Band of Gypsies)
"Me & My Uncle" - Grateful Dead (skull & roses)
"Mexicali Blues" - Bob Weir/Grateful Dead (Bob Weir - Ace)
"Smackwater Jack" - Carole King (Tapestry)
"Midnight Rambler" - Rolling Stones (Gimme Shelter)


May-22-2007, 9:22am
"Les Trois P'tits Frères de Pontoise" - Gabriel Yacoub (Trad. Arr.) (execution, followed up with a reprisal slaughter of the entire town)
Well, that takes care of the body count competition! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

May-22-2007, 9:29am
Psycho Killer

Say something once, why say it again.

May-22-2007, 9:32am
I was about to nominate Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You", but then I realised that the thread wasn't about people murdering ballads http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

"Hey Joe" - Hendrix
"I shot the Sheriff" - lots of versions
"Dic Penderyn" - Martyn Joseph
"The Keeper" - Steve Knightley (technically about World War One, but blurs the boundaries between war and murder).

May-22-2007, 9:37am
"Little Glass of Wine"

"Little Omie Wise" (Omie Wise/Naomie Wise)

May-22-2007, 9:40am
Hey, Chuck Norris' tears can cure cancer - too bad he never cried!

May-22-2007, 9:41am
I was about to nominate Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You", but then I realised that the thread wasn't about people murdering ballads

That could be a whole new thread. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Peter Hackman
May-22-2007, 9:42am
The Girl behind the Bar

Charles Guiteau

Whitehouse Blues

Anyone list Knoxville Girl?

Define "ballad", please.

May-22-2007, 9:42am
Well, did you know the chief export of Chuck Norris is pain?

back to the programming- would "Stagger Lee" be a murder ballad, or song?

C. Carr
May-22-2007, 9:46am
Here's my list of mostly recent recordings of traditional songs and a few newer ones:

1. "Down In The Willow Garden": I like Tim O'Brien's version on "The Crossing".

2. "Mollie Bawn": Alison Krause does a really haunting version with The Chieftans on "Down The Old Plank Road".

3. "Louis Collins": The old Mississippi John Hurt song that David Grisman and Jerry Garcia recorded on "Shady Grove".

4. "Buffalo Skinners": Tim O'Brien must like these ballads alot there are three on "Fiddler's Green" alone.

5. "Fair Flowers of the Valley": Tim O'Brien again on "Fiddler's Green", along with "Long Black Veil".

6. "Hey Joe" the Hendrix Classic which I'll include here because Jerry Douglas does it with Tim O'Brien (him again!?) on the "Slide Rule Album".

7."Henry Brown": from Old School Freight Train's "Run".

8. "Tennessee Stud" - 'I pulled my gun and he fell with a thud, and I rode away on the Tennessee Stud'.

9. "Down by the River": Neil Young - Cause I liked so much when I was a kid.

May-22-2007, 10:17am
Some that haven't been mentioned;

Lily Of the West
Step It Out Nancy - Robin & Linda Williams' re-write of Step It Out Mary
Polly Von - accidental killing, not really murder (this has been mentioned as Mollie Bawn)
Frankie Silver
Tom Dooley - of course, but the Doc Watson version that says Dula was innocent
Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender
Two Sisters
Katie Dear - does a double suicide count?
Henry Lee
Long Lankin - if you can stand the murder of an infant
Bonnie Susie Cleland
The Three Butchers/Jinkson Johnson - whatever you call it
Litte Sadie

One thing that traditional music teaches us, is that women should never date men named "Willy." How many ballads have Willy killing off his girlfriend?

May-22-2007, 10:19am
Chuck Norris wrote, sung and starred in all of these murder ballads!

Neil Gladd
May-22-2007, 10:28am
Killington Hill - Mitch & Mickey
Irish Ballad - Tom Lehrer

Keith Erickson
May-22-2007, 10:29am
Long Black Veil was done on Johnny Cash's Live at Folsom Prison.

One of my favorite tunes indeed http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

May-22-2007, 10:32am
wasn't Left Frizell the first to record it?

Martin Jonas
May-22-2007, 10:44am
Oh dear, there are rather a lot of them. Here are a few personal favourites:

Delia's Gone
Murder Of Maria Marten
Poor Murdered Woman
Sheath And Knife
Two Sisters
Oxford Girl (Oyster Band)
Little Sir Hugh
Bruton Town
Famous Flower Of Serving Men (if you don't know it, drop everything and get the Martin Carthy version!)
Sir James The Rose
Pretty Polly
False Sir John


May-22-2007, 10:53am
"Delilah" by Tom Jones.

'....I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more.' Yikes.

Mando comps original trumpet solo.


Adrian W.
May-22-2007, 11:20am
Already mentioned, but my favorites:

Katy Dear
Caleb Myer
Pretty Polly
Dreadful Wind and Rain

One not mentioned, by J.P Cormier (Cape Breton fiddle, mandolin, and guitar player):

Kellys Mountain

Dan Cole
May-22-2007, 11:21am
Timothy by the Bouys. #Tune about these 3 guys that get trapped in a cave or mine, only 2 come out cuz they ate Timothy.

Lyrics for: Timothy
by Rupert Holmes

Trapped in a mine that had caved in
And everyone knows the only ones left
Were Joe and me and Tim
When they broke through to pull us free
The only ones left to tell the tale
Were Joe and me

Timothy, Timothy, where on earth did you go?
Timothy, Timothy, God why don't I know?

Hungry as hell no food to eat
And Joe said that he would sell his soul
For just a piece of meat
Water enough to drink for two
And Joe said to me, "I'll have a swig
And then there's some for you."

Timothy, Timothy, Joe was looking at you
Timothy, Timothy, God what did we do?

I must have blacked out just around then
'Cause the very next thing that I could see
Was the light of the day again
My stomach was full as it could be
And nobody ever got around
To finding Timothy

Keith Owen
May-22-2007, 11:23am
"Down The River" by Chris Knight
"Pontiac" by Fred Eaglesmith
"El Paso" by Marty Robbins
"Lights of L.A. County" by Lyle Lovett
"Don't Take Your Guns to Town" by Johnny Cash
"Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash

Not a ballad, but "Crazy Eddie's Last Hurrah" is a great murder song

May-22-2007, 11:31am
Some that haven't been mentioned...
Litte Sadie

Little Sadie was already mentioned.

James P
May-22-2007, 11:57am
"Send Me to the 'lectric Chair" and "That's the Way the Girls are in Texas." #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
But more seriously, maybe "In Bruton Town." (http://www.broadside.org/music/lyrics/bruton.html)

Patrick Gunning
May-22-2007, 12:01pm
Surprised "Flora, Lily of the West" hasn't gotten more mention here. Go check out the Crooked Still version.

May-22-2007, 12:13pm
A few Bluegrass favorites are:
Blackbirds and Crows by the Nashville Bluegrass Band
Turn it on, Turn it on, Turn it on by Rock County
Carrie Brown by Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band


Pez D. Spencer
May-22-2007, 12:18pm
El Paso
Big iron on his hip
Pancho and Lefty

May-22-2007, 12:22pm
Tim O'Brien's "Dow in the Willow Garden" is one of my favorites.

Peter Hackman
May-22-2007, 12:55pm

Gathering Flowers from the Hillside

been mentioned?

Hank Thompson-Billy Gray (his musical director):

"I Saw My Mother's Name"

http://www.cowboylyrics.com/tabs....14.html (http://www.cowboylyrics.com/tabs/thompson-hank/i-saw-my-mothers-name-1514.html)

They don't write songs like that anymore.

Rick Banuelos
May-22-2007, 12:55pm
"Wild Bill Jones" - AKUS

May-22-2007, 1:06pm
Since this was started by a lawyer, we have to add "Philadelphia Lawyer."

Pez D. Spencer
May-22-2007, 1:09pm
Not murder, but Wreck of the 97.

May-22-2007, 1:12pm
Who said they all have to be bluegrass songs?

Run For Your Life - Lennon/McCartney

Well I'd rather see you dead, little girl
than to be with another man
You better keep your head, little girl
or I won't know where I am

Paul Kotapish
May-22-2007, 1:21pm
A few of my favorites:

"Banks of Red Roses" (This could be a precursor to "Banks of the Ohio." In most versions the killer is a fiddler who charms his love with a tune before burying her on the banks of the river. There's a nice version by Johnny Moynihan on one of the early De Dannan recordings.) http://www.mysongbook.de/msb/songs/b/bkofredr.html

"Cruel Mother" (AKA "Fine Flowers in the Valley." There are at least 13 versions of this in the Child collection. It doesn't get much creepier than infanticide or spookier than the specters of murdered babies.)
There are several versions at http://www.mudcat.org/@displaysong.cfm?SongID=1400

"Mr. Fox" (Not to be confused with the chipper "Fox Went out on a Snowy Night" or "Daddy Fox." This one is really spooky, although the murder is all the more creepy for being implied rather than explicitly described.)

Pez D. Spencer
May-22-2007, 1:32pm
Not bluegrass or murder, but great, Artifical Flowers by Bobby Darin.

May-22-2007, 1:33pm
NICK CAVE!!!!! for those who dont know...nick cave and the bad seeds....english? band....choice instruments, poor singing...just what we love..

I am not a fan, but his "murder ballads" album (title) is REALLY REALLY REALLY GOOD!!!
there is a female singer he is collabing with...she keeps him in tune, its bearable..and the songs are so eerie and well written and quite beautiful!!!

check out:
henry lee
they call me the wild rose

you can find these online,,,"they call me the wild rose" has a video...


Pez D. Spencer
May-22-2007, 1:37pm
Blood On The Saddle.

Walter Newton
May-22-2007, 1:37pm
Who said they all have to be bluegrass songs?

Run For Your Life - Lennon/McCartney
Well for Beatles songs, how about Maxwell's Silver Hammer!

Col. Suggs
May-22-2007, 1:40pm
Booth Shot Lincoln

May-22-2007, 1:44pm
Maybe we should ask a ninja.

John Flynn
May-22-2007, 1:56pm
"The Wind and Rain" - Traditional
"Goodbye Earl" - Dixie Chicks
"Just a Job to Do" - Genesis

May-22-2007, 1:58pm
Knoxville Girl and Willow Garden are two of my fav's.

Don Rigsby has a tune out that I think is called "Blood on my Hands", dont quote me on the correct title. But, this is a great murder ballad.

Great topic!

May-22-2007, 2:09pm
The Ballad of Sweeney Todd-That counts right? Maybe I'll have to find a way to make a mando accompaniment for that just to prove that it counts.

The Ballad of Ann Boleyn

Tom Lehrer's Irish Ballad

Matty Groves

The Dark Lady-okay it's a ship doing the murdering, but it was premeditated, so it counts

The Undertaker's Daughter-this is me being a bit self promotional since I wrote that one


May-22-2007, 4:16pm
John Hardy

May-22-2007, 4:41pm
"Mr. Fox" (Not to be confused with the chipper "Fox Went out on a Snowy Night" or "Daddy Fox." This one is really spooky, although the murder is all the more creepy for being implied rather than explicitly described.)

You're talking about the Bob & Carole Pegg song by their band of the same name? Lopped off hands... Good example of lydian mode (#4) too! #

Interesting group - I've got both of the Mr Fox albums, the Bob & Carole precursor of Trailer, Carolanne's LP on Transatlantic (I transcribed several of the Albert Lee guitar solos off that LP - first place I'd heard Lee, long before Emmylou), and Bob Pegg & Nicks Strutt which had a strange-o song called "King Dog" ("They showed me all the human skins hanging from your door"). Probably written about his by then, ex-wife. She was into witchcraft.

Which reminds me of a classic creeper....."The Werewolf" by Michael Hurley.

And one about a terrorist...(a favorite), "Pavanne" by Richard & Linda Thompson (First Light)

Niles H

John Rosett
May-22-2007, 5:06pm
The singer in my old band in Montana wrote a great song that he just called "Murder Ballad". It's a dark, minor-key song that ends up with the guy killing his girlfriend and then runs away with his boyfriend.

Martin Jonas
May-22-2007, 5:15pm
"Mr. Fox" (Not to be confused with the chipper "Fox Went out on a Snowy Night" or "Daddy Fox." This one is really spooky, although the murder is all the more creepy for being implied rather than explicitly described.)

You're talking about the Bob & Carole Pegg song by their band of the same name? Lopped off hands... Good example of lydian mode (#4) too!
I rather like the two Mr Fox albums, especially Aunt Lucy Broadwood which is one of the great folk-rap songs. However, I suspect that the previous poster was referring to the traditional ballad "Mr Fox". As it happens, there's a great version of it by Frankie Armstrong available as a free MP3 download from Amazon here (http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Fox/dp/B000058UNK). Frankie is one of my favourite British ballad singers, and her version of Tam Lin is definitely worth looking out for.


Paul Kotapish
May-22-2007, 5:29pm
"Mr. Fox" (Not to be confused with the chipper "Fox Went out on a Snowy Night" or "Daddy Fox." This one is really spooky, although the murder is all the more creepy for being implied rather than explicitly described.)

You're talking about the Bob & Carole Pegg song by their band of the same name?
I'm not familiar with the band Mr. Fox, but this song is credited to John Pole (lyrics) Terry Yarnell (tune). It is indeed the same one sung by Frankie Armstrong. Claudia Schmidt also recorded it. Both versions can be heard at the iTunes store.

The lyrics were published in Sing Out in 1985.

Lyrics here. (http://www.poemsplace.net/html/165/689402.html)

We perform it with Sylvia Herold in our little band Euphonia. (http://www.sylviaherold.com/02_euphonia.html)

Martin Jonas
May-22-2007, 5:43pm
Thanks for the correction, Paul: I hadn't realised that the song recorded by Frankie was not traditional (I only have the MP3, which has no songwriting credits). The group Mr Fox was originally the brain child of Bob & Carole Pegg with Ashley Hutchings (fresh out of Fairport Convention) in 1970, but Hutchings absconded to join Steeleye Span instead. All songs on their two albums were self-penned, the second album contained a song by the same name as the group. I have the albums on CD, but have always considered that they were a good idea rather than a good band. In particular, their instrumental ability didn't match the ambition and originality of the songwriting.


May-22-2007, 5:48pm
I wasn't reading with my magnifiers but I don't think Whitehouse Blues has been mentioned. #Assasination, not murder - like there's a difference if it's you!

Also love Little Glass of Wine.

Mandopete, Psycho Killer is the best! Same as it ever was. (wrong song, right album)

Leevon DeCourley
May-22-2007, 5:59pm
Larry Stephenson does his share of murder tunes. Some of my favorites that he alone has done is:
Clinch Mountain Mystery
Knoxville Girl
The Knoxville Boy
Veil of White Lace

Maybe not all murder but along the same lines.

Stanley Cox
May-22-2007, 6:32pm
Sally Ann,the Mark O'Conner version.

Stanley http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

May-22-2007, 7:28pm
Mr. Fox / The Gipsy (http://product.half.ebay.com/Mr-Fox-The-Gypsy_W0QQprZ3427046QQtgZinfo)


More executions ---

"Gallows Pole" - Led Zeppelin (III)
"Geordie" - trad. (Martin Carthy does it, but I liked the version by Trees on the On The Shore album)

<span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>(Spooky Hipgnosis cover....call the exorcist!)</span>


May-22-2007, 7:35pm
Just a few come to mind. Good thread by the way!

"Footsteps So Near" HotRize: (kind of a murder/ghost story)

"Another Day" Mountain Heart: (father's revenge for daughters abuse and murder)

"The Perfume, The Powder, and The Lead" Lonesome River Band: (jealous husband shoots wife and Sheriff's Son found in bed together)

"Harvest Time" The Lost and Found & recently released by the Lonesome River Band:

(Homer shot Mountain Joe for just one ear of corn and laughed the day they laid him in the ground) #

Well, with exception to "Footsteps So Near" these aren't exactly "Ballads" but the lyrics in these tunes kind of stood out there. #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif # http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/coffee.gif

Brady Smith
May-22-2007, 8:49pm
Red Velvet Dress - Cherryholmes
Bubba Shot the Jukebox - Mark Chestnutt
(well no one actually died in that one) http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

May-22-2007, 8:58pm
"Rock Salt and Nails" by the Bluegrass Cardinals.

Duc Vu
May-22-2007, 11:13pm
Mary Hamilton. Infanticide and execution.

May-22-2007, 11:53pm
Teen angel
Tell Laura I Love Her
The Night Chicago Died (I'm gagging as I type that one)
The Devil's Right Hand
Leader Of The Pack
Murder In The Trailer Park
I Hung My Head
Don't Fear The Reaper

May-23-2007, 5:08am
The Martins and the Coys (Hatfield/McCoy feud) "When they found him on the mountain he was bleeding like a fountain...."

Klaus Wutscher
May-23-2007, 6:24am
Three pages and no mention of "Frankie and Johnny/Albert"

May-23-2007, 6:44am
"Pearl Bryan" (a true story, too!).

May-23-2007, 9:35am
I'm partial to "Banks of the Ohio."

May-23-2007, 9:37am
"Rock Salt and Nails" by the Bluegrass Cardinals.
I think that song was written by Utah Phillips if I'm not mistaken.

Undercover Brother
May-23-2007, 10:56am
"Blackjack County Chains"... There are at least 2 good versions - Doc Watson and Willie Nelson.

Song about a prisoner with a bounty on his head... gets caught and has '35 pounds of Blackjack County Chain' locked on his ankle.

One night he creeps up on the Sheriff (who was a-sleepin') and beats him to death with the chain.

Stickin' it to the man, Bluegrass style.


May-23-2007, 10:58am
"Blackjack County Chains"... There are at least 2 good versions - Doc Watson and Willie Nelson.
You forgot the version by Del McCoury!

Martin Jonas
May-23-2007, 11:07am
"Blackjack County Chains"... There are at least 2 good versions - Doc Watson and Willie Nelson.
To which you can add an Irish version, by Christy Moore on his album "Smoke And Strong Whiskey".


May-23-2007, 1:03pm
Thanks for the correction, mandopete. #I wouldn't doubt that Utah Phillips wrote 'Rock Salt and Nails'. #I heard it years ago on an old cassette by the Bluegrass Cardinals, and that cold-blooded last line came to mind when I saw this thread. #Good topic, BTW.

Another good one I haven't seen mentioned is 'The Hills of Roane County'. #I know the Stanley Brothers' recorded it, but I don't think they wrote it. #Apparently it was based on a true story in Tennessee circa 1884-85.

Miles Town Mando
May-23-2007, 5:47pm
"Over Yonder" by Steve Earl is one of the best executiion songs I've heard. I too like all of the Larry Stephenson murder songs, many of which were written by Tom T. and Dixie Hall.

Dan Adams
May-23-2007, 5:49pm
I'm surprised "Dirty Old Town" by the Pogues hasn't surfaced. I have a bluegrass/folk version by The Ecclestons? A touch off but "Come With Me." Dan

big h
May-23-2007, 10:40pm
It's not my fvorite at all,but "Little Mathie Grove" is one.It gave me the chills when I first herd it. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wow.gif

May-23-2007, 11:23pm
Here's one that nobody will know, as the songwrier died a few years ago just as he was beginning to get the recognition he deserves. His name is Dave Carter, and the song is "Preston Miller." Played with Tracy Grammer, who released an album of his music after he died. They did a few CD's before he passed. Give him a google.

May-24-2007, 5:53am
"Crime I'm Guilty Of"-Blue Moon Rising Band

May-24-2007, 8:26am
I love those "murder ballads," cause most of the time the villan get his/her just desserts. Has " Girl in the Blue Velvet Band been mentioned?" "The guilty one now lies dying."
"In the Gravel Yard" "I killed a man I caught with my wife"
Have you noticed that many times the murderer is named Willie? G.B.

Dave Gumbart
May-24-2007, 9:43am
Not your everyday bluegrass band, but check out With a Gun by Steely Dan, from Pretzel Logic. That's just cryin' to be a bluegrass tune.

May-24-2007, 11:02am
"Thats the night that the lights went out in Georgia" qualifies by lyric, if not genre

May-25-2007, 7:47am
One of my all time favorites is "Perfume, Powder and Lead" as done by the Lonesome River Band. That song makes me cry.

May-25-2007, 8:09am
Delia - Johnny Cash
Ella Speed - Mance Lipscomb
Careless Love - Lonnie Johnson version

and of course the whole of the Nick Cave album of the same title, particularly the unbeatably bloodthirsty O'Malley's bar (parts one, two, and three!!)

There's also a great song on the new Ry Cooder about a pig called J Edgar Hoover who eats the 'hired man' Bob. I'm not actually aware of any other songs of this nature...

May-25-2007, 8:18am
Turn It On, Turn It On, Turn It On! Rock County...7 shootings and an electric chair execution, not bad!

May-25-2007, 8:27am
Yes, of course, Leaving home/Frankie - "from underneath her silk kimono she pulled her 44 gun. These love affairs are hard to bear"

Nick Cave by the way is Australian and the woman who 'keeps him in tune' on one song (Where the wild roses grow) is Kylie Minogue, who is not normally known for her murder ballads

C. Carr
May-26-2007, 9:20am
Well it appears we've beaten this topic to death! Thanks for all the replies. I now have enough info for a nice compilation.

Regards & Thanks,

Charlie Carr

May-26-2007, 10:26am
Another good one I haven't seen mentioned is 'The Hills of Roane County'. I know the Stanley Brothers' recorded it, but I don't think they wrote it. Apparently it was based on a true story in Tennessee circa 1884-85.
the Blue Sky Boys also recorded a version of it and so did Charlie Moore, Wilma Lee Cooper, Tony Rice and Mac Wiseman. Bill Monroe also recorded it as "Roane County Prison", a great song. coincidentally its also where Frank Wakefield spent his early childhood, and it name drops my hometown- which is definitely a first.

I have also it spelled Roan with out the 'e' in the song title, which i guess is just a typo.

it is based on a true story, here is the song background (http://www.roanetnheritage.com/research/m&m/05.htm) that someone from back home researched

Don Christy
May-26-2007, 11:27am
Got to include several tracks off of Springsteen's Nebraska:
- Nebraska (kills everything in his path, but they had some fun)
- Highway Patrolman (the guy in the bar probably died)
- State Trooper (not quite murder - so long as the state trooper doesn't stop him)

And a couple of good Dylan songs
- The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
- Percy's Song


Dave Caulkins
May-28-2007, 12:44am
I'm more than guilty of loving murder ballads, I could be accused of playing little else... Then again, when you play in an HP Lovecraft/pulp horror inspired country band... I like songs that deal with death, so forgive me if I amuse some different aspects...

Vincent Black Lightning (RIchard Thompson): Not strictly a murder ballad, but then again...

Another vote for Nick Cave and Tom Waits... Adding "Mercy Seat" and "Black Wings" respectively - though both deal with death from other directions.

Goin' Down to Die (Glenn Danzig): It's a well known fact that Danzig wrote "13" for Mr. Cash... This was the song Johnny didn't choose. On a less "countrified" note, "Die Die My Darling" makes a heckuva western swing tune.

Cottonseed (Drive By Truckers): Unrepentant, vicious, and downright mean.

Fistful of Demons (Ghoultown): Here you have Spaghetti Western Twang combined with infantcide and beyond the grave revenge. Not for the squemish.

Weightless Again (The Handsome Family): Does suicide count? Creepier than many a true murder ballad while still keeping that "charm".

The Road Goes On Forever (Robert Earl Keen): ...and the party never ends...

They're Hanging Me Tonight (Marty Robbins): Heck the whole "Gunfighter..." album is pretty darn good in this topic...

In The Trunk of My Cadillac Car (Unknown Hinson): This is about as inappropriate a tune to croon as any have written. Simply put, he is the King of Country Western Troubadors...

Bang Bang My Baby Shot Me Down (Nancy Sinatra): Yeah, I heard it on the Kill Bill soundtrack... It gave me chills when I first heard it... Still does...

---Not to mention all the great tunes I've already seen mentioned---

Couldn't resist the topic...

Dave "Grimm Pickins"

mando bandage
May-28-2007, 8:08pm
Not to beat a dead horse too bloody, but

Sinkhole by Drive-By Truckers, Farm foreclosure and murder all rolled into one.

Ballad of Hollis Brown as performed by Leon Russell

Country Death Song by Violent Femmes.

Three desparate farmer songs from the heartland.


May-28-2007, 8:52pm
Sinkhole by Drive-By Truckers, Farm foreclosure and murder all rolled into one.
that's a classic right there!

May-29-2007, 7:22am
Don't know if it's been mentioned (don't have time to sort through whole thread), but my favorite murder ballad is:

Country Death Song -- The Violent Femmes

"I gave her a push, I gave her a shove.
I pushed with all my might, I pushed with all my love.
I pushed my darlin' into a bottomless pit.
She screamed as she fell, but I never heard her hit.
She screamed as she fell, but I never heard her hit."

And for a traditional murder ballad, it would be a tie
between Mathie Groves or Willow Garden.


Walter Newton
May-29-2007, 8:05am
Glad to see some other Drive By Truckers fans here - Decoration Day is a great one too!

mando bandage
May-29-2007, 12:49pm
Glad to see some other Drive By Truckers fans here - Decoration Day is a great one too!

Aw, man. You're a day late, but I didn't even think of it.


May-29-2007, 8:36pm
A lovely C/W ballad my wife has done for years: "The girl who loved the man that robbed the bank in Santa Fe and got away". A haunting tune, and probably the longest title I've seen.

May-29-2007, 8:54pm
"Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed?" - Richard Thompson (Hand of Kindness)

"Poor Murdered Woman", "Murder of Maria Marten" - Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band (No Roses)

"Arthur McBride" - Paul Brady & Andy Irvine (Paul Brady and Andy Irvine) In #Paul Brady's great rendition, I really get the impression the the beatings of the recruiter and his drummer are probably fatal.

Bob Sayers
May-29-2007, 9:09pm
Jody Stecher's great version of "Oh the Wind and Rain" on his Going Up On The Mountain CD. He plays an extended version of the song (accompanied by an oud!!!) on has later Oh the Wind and Rain CD. Also good, but I think the earlier version is the classic one.


John Ritchhart
May-29-2007, 9:27pm
Wind and Rain is a version of the Two Sister's I think.
Jerry Garcia did a version of Sweet Ellender that has two murders and a suicide.
Colleen Malone died. We don't know, could have been murdered.
How about MacPherson's Lament. He was hung for sheep stealing. That's murder ain't it?

May-30-2007, 1:37am
"Contrabando y traición" by los Tigres del Norte. Just one of many by this great, and extremely intense group!

May-30-2007, 7:15am
OK, I'm actaully kind of bugged by some of these tunes. #I mean when you listen to a song like "Little Girl And The Dreadful Snake" I have to wonder why someone would write a tune and like, why someone else would want to play it, and why anyone would want to hear it. #Why do the guys in these bluegrass tunes kill their girlfriends and throw them in the river?

That said, here are two more death tunes.....

Red Headed Stranger by Willie Nelson......"He shot her so quick they had no time to warn her....."

Lighthouse by Nickel Creek.....the lighthouse keeper jumps off the lighthouse.

The whole death theme gives me the creeps.

May-30-2007, 9:50am
Great thread. I'm with Grimm "I'm more than guilty of loving murder ballads, I could be accused of playing little else..." Pickins (great handle, btw). Death Is An Easy Plot Device just might be the title of volume II in my Dead Folks and How They Got That Way cd series (shameless self-promotion). Tragedy, dark and creepy, has worked really well for balladeers, and songwriters through the ages. I don't what that says about the human condition (and I'm biased, being a Cormac McCarthy fan).

Two of my favorite murder/dead-folk ballads (no dead girls in either!) are:

"King's Highway" Joe Henry
"Billy Gray" Norman Blake

May-30-2007, 11:26am
I have always been attracted to murder ballads too. there is something about the guy who kills his girlfriend and turns himself over without understanding why he has done what he has done that reaches deep somewhere. If you read about a real event of this type, it's just horrible, but in song it seems like an allegory of the stupid way we all (or a lot of us) destroy what we love the most.
Actually more than Cormac McCarthy the songs often remind me of Raymond Carver..

May-30-2007, 11:35am
"Crazy Man Michael" Fairport Convention
"Stagger Lee" Greatful Dead
"Bohemian Rhapsody" Queen
"Fair Ellender" Garcia/Grisman
"John Barleycorn" Traffic (not a real person, but still perty brutal!)
"Blue Ridge Mountain" Greatful Dead

Great thread! Funny how rap music gets all the press about being violent!

May-30-2007, 10:34pm
Me and my Uncle (and I left his dead %ss there by the side of the road).

Moving back a few posts to McPherson's Lament (aka McPherson's Farewell), I thing McPherson was actually hung for being a half-gypsy, which was a capital offense at the time in scotland. Fine tune regardless.

Here's a reference: American Murder Ballads and Their Stories, by Olive Woolley Burt.

May-31-2007, 9:36am
(Pardon me) I've got someone to kill - Paycheck

May-31-2007, 10:06am
Long Black Veil is a murder song, somebody got murdered, the guy that hangs for it just didn't do the crime.
I guess that would make that a double murder ballad?

Jim Yates
May-31-2007, 4:48pm
Has anyone mentioned Deliah's Gone? Especially the verse that says:
Deliah, Deliah, How could it be
You loved all them rounders, but you never really did love me?
Deliah's gone, one more round,
Deliah's gone, one more round,
Deliah's gone, one more round,
Deliah's gone.

Frank Russell
Jun-01-2007, 10:47am
Arlene, by the Handsome Family (excerpt):

that night I decided that I was gonna marry you
my knife went through your screen door
and I went away with you
you were singing "please let me go"
all the way down to Miller's Cave
when I picked a stick up off the ground you cried
"I ain't ready for my grave."
Arlene, in the dark your hair's just as red
and this long dark cave will always be our wedding bed

It just doesn't get any more backwards than that. Frank

Jun-01-2007, 9:20pm
Oh, two I really like are "Wild Bill Jones and "The Ballad of Jack Dringo."
Peace - JFT

Jun-02-2007, 12:37am
How about NGR's "Colly Davis", with one of my favorite mandolin intros of all time, with time honored revenge as its subject, Blue Highway's "Cry of the Whipporwill", and a one of my all-time favorites, LRB's "Carolyn, the Teenage Queen", with his plans to kill her thwarted by an auto accident, and the great line, "I looked at her face so deathly white, she cheated me once again."

Jim Yates
Jul-27-2011, 7:49am
Miss Otis Regrets

Jul-27-2011, 8:28am
I heard Bill Kirchen do a song called Cold Hard Facts Of Life thats killer,I think it's a Stonewall Jackson song.

Jul-27-2011, 9:02am
Fantastic thread.

I'm not a folklorist or historian, but I guess that these songs have their roots in illiterate (pre-literate?) oral traditions where a moral lesson and a vicarious thrill of the forbidden are presented to the listener at the same time. Forbidden fruit and death, that is a very strong "archetype" since the dawn of time.


Steve Ostrander
Jul-27-2011, 9:05am
Louis Collins (trad)
Tom Dooley (trad)
Carrie Brown Steve Earle
Cold Rain and Snow Del McCoury, et al
Down By the River Neil Young
Gallows Pole trad Led Zeppelin

Bob Clark
Jul-27-2011, 9:13am
Hi Folks,

Any readers of Mary Wilkins Freeman (1852-1930) in this thread? She was a New England regionalist writer who often wrote about the darker side of human character. Her short story "Old Woman Magoun" would be great fodder for a murder ballad, in case anybody is looking to write one. Old Woman Magoun is raising her grandaughter, Lily, in the Hamlet of Barry's Ford. Lily's good-for-nothing father has gambled and lost the little girl to another gambler, in a cardgame. Old Woman Magoun kills Lily by allowing her to eat nightshade berries, to save her from that fate. Great read that would make a terrific ballad. Even the names are made for it.


Jul-27-2011, 9:50am
Little Sadie is just about a perfect song!

Jul-27-2011, 10:15am
I heard Bill Kirchen do a song called Cold Hard Facts Of Life thats killer,I think it's a Stonewall Jackson song.

Porter Wagoner, the one and only.

Has anyone listed Two Sisters? Someone early on listed a bunch of Tom Waits songs -- he does a great version of this.

Oh, and Sam McGee's is my favorite version of Little Sadie. I think he calls it by some other title.

Jul-27-2011, 11:49am
I wrote one after a dream I had. You can check it out a lot of spots on the web. My bands name is Red Dog Ash, song is called "On the Run".

Jul-27-2011, 12:34pm
The Lawson Family Murder:

´t was on one Christmas evening
the snow laid on the ground
when in his home in North Carolina
in this murder he was found
(killing his whole family)

The House Carpenter

Boston Boy (war)

I like Niles´ Hokkanen´s initial post (with some non bluegrass and related tunes. Tom Waits does great stuff)

Jul-27-2011, 12:43pm
"Possum Kingdom" by The Toadies drove real hard but the content was always just a little too twisted for me!
"The Wind & Rain" the Crooked Still version
"Banks of the Ohio" the Tony Rice Version
"Darlin' Corey" the 23 String Band version

Marty Henrickson
Jul-27-2011, 1:04pm
Interesting that this thread has been "resurrected". I find myself drawn to murder ballads, as well. I actually have two playlists saved on my PC of murder- or death-related songs. After scanning this thread, here's a few from my collection that I think have been left off the list:

Duncan and Brady -The Johnson Mountain Boys (always wondered why the guy was called "King Brady")
Fishtrap Joe - Bearfoot (from their "Back Home CD)
The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle - Sam Bush
Otto Wood - Doc Watson - how has this been missed?
Silver Dagger - Old Crow Medicine Show (but I think it's a traditional song that's been done a bunch)
Dupree's Diamond Blues - Grateful Dead (armed robbery, murder, and execution)
Pretty Polly - Ralph Stanley (again, how was this song left off the list?)
Ruination Day, Pt. 2 - Gillian Welch:
"And the great boat sank, and the Okies fled,
and the Great Emancipator took a bullet in the head.
In the hea-ea-ea-ea-ea-ead, took a bullet in the back of the head..."

Randi Gormley
Jul-27-2011, 3:42pm
Steeleye Span had a bunch; what I can think of this sec is the ballad of the three poachers -- they shot two keepers on the way out of the wood "Exile and transportation two brothers they were taken and the other one hung as a token, may God forgive their crimes.'

I wrote one a long time ago for fun called "Billy Hardesty" after a local mass killer (killed his parents, his dog and a neighbor before wandering into town and had a shootout with police that left him wounded.) We used to get letters occasionally from him from prison.

Twa Corbies/Three Ravens (depending on the version) could work. (O'er his white bones as they lie bare the wind will blow forever more...)

Jul-27-2011, 11:31pm
"Little Sadie"

"john Hardy"

Dwight Yoakam's acoustic version of "Buenos Noches from a Lonely Room"

Jul-28-2011, 12:11am
3 that pop right up: Cruel Willie : 'stuck him in the belly with a knife' woa! I think it's a pretty old song. Here's a great version:


Del McCoury- BlackJack County Chain (can't find a full version with Del):


Nashville BB - Blackbirds & the Crows. Couldn't find them either but here's the tune:


Jul-28-2011, 6:54am
Frankenpine recorded a bunch of songs about death on their debut album, "The Crooked Mountain." The first is "Texas Outlaw" (all about revenge killings against Union soldiers for killing Confederates after they swore an oath of allegiance to the US), the second, "Never Lie," which is from the point of view of a gunman who has "never lied to [his] guns," and is going to be hung for laying one too many men low. The third is "Over Your Bones," which is more a lament for the loss of the past, but also for those who have been killed (Indians? I'm not sure, but as an archaeology student who just spent a lot of time excavating burials in Turkey, the song has special meaning for me). The fourth is "Eye of the Whale," which is a murder/suicide ballad about a whaling ship; the whale gets murdered, and the captain and his wife both commit suicide, the captain by shooting himself with a musket under the chin, the wife by drowning herself in the whale's domain.

Mason Brown and Chipper Thompson also recorded a number of old murder/death songs on "Am I Born To Die: An Appalachian Songbook." They are: "Jesse James" (killed by Robert Ford, "the dirty little coward"), "Banks of the Ohio," "Bruton Town" (all about separation of lovers, honor killings, etc.), "God Moves on the Water" (the Titanic disaster), and "The Pesky Sarpent" (boy gets bitten by a venemous snake, girl sucks it out for him, they both die).

I guess the many recordings of "O, Death" would fall in this category (thinking of Ralph Stanley's, Mavis Staples' (with Darol Anger), and others).

Also, "Katie Dear" (Louvin Brothers, Solas [as "The Silver Dagger"], Schooner Fare [as "The Butcher Boy"], and the Chieftains), "Knoxville Girl", "Mollie Bawn" (look before you shoot), "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" (as done by Solas), "Mary of the Wild Moor," "Railroad Bill," "Staggerlee"....the list goes on and on.

Oh, and lest we forget "John Barleycorne (Must Die)." Violent murder of a cereal crop, who still wins in the end.

Does Silly Wizard's "The Fisherman's Song" count?

Wah, more come to mind:

"Good Corn Liquor" by the Steeldrivers (Daddy has to run 'shine to pay for Mom's medicine, the sheriff shoots him down cold).
"Sticks That Made Thunder" also by the Steeldrivers (Civil War battle, many are killed; from a tree's perspective).
"John Wilkes Booth" by Tony Rice (Story of Booth, his killing Lincoln, Lincoln's premonitions, the hunting of Booth, the executions of the conspirators).
"Darling Corey."
"Omie Wise" (Bruce Molsky has a good version on his fiddling and singing instructional video).

Jul-28-2011, 7:04am
The Dead version of the song Stagger Lee is a great update of that story. Robert Hunter did a great job with the lyrics, and Garcia wrote a fine chord progression and melody.

Stagger Lee
Shakedown Street

Last Updated 02/29/96

General Rules On Chord Charts

Intro: [c d e]

F C Bb F Bb
1940, Xmas eve, with a full moon over town
F C Bb F
Stagger Lee met Billy DeLion
And he blew that poor boy down.
F C Bb F
Do you know what he shot him for?
Bb (a# a g#)
What do you make of that?
Cause Billy DeLion threw lucky dice
Won Stagger Lee's Stetson hat.


Bayou, Bayou, tell me how can this be?
You arrest the girls for turning tricks
But you're scared of Stagger Lee.
Stagger Lee is a madman and he shot my Billy D.
C G C D (C G C D)
Bayou go get him or give the job to me.

Delia Deliah, dear sweet Delia-D
How the hell can I arrest him? He's twice as big as me.
Well don't ask me to go downtown, I won't come back alive [no more].
Not only is that mother big he packs a .45 [four].

Bayou, Delia said, just give me a gun
He shot my Billy dead now I'm gonna see him hung.
She went into the DeLion's club through Billy DeLion’s blood
Stepped up to Stagger Lee at the bar,
Said, "Buy me a gin fizz, love."

As Stagger Lee lit a cigarette she shot him in the balls
Blew the smoke off her revolver, had him dragged to city hall
Bayou, Bayou, see you hangin’ high
He shot my Billy dead and now he's got to die.

Delia went a walking down on Singapore Street
A three-piece band on the corner played "Near My God to Thee"
But Delia whistled a different tune, what tune could it be?
The song that woman sung was "Look Out Stagger Lee".
The song that Delia sung was "Look Out Stagger Lee".

Jul-28-2011, 8:49am
I would not advise a young woman to date a man named Willy. Sorry Willy, but I am just sayin :)

I used to have to review automobile accident reports as part of my job, and I recomended that folks not drive vehicle #2.

Marty Henrickson
Jul-28-2011, 9:30am
I would not advise a young woman to date a man named Willy. Sorry Willy, but I am just sayin :)

I used to have to review automobile accident reports as part of my job, and I recomended that folks not drive vehicle #2.
And if you do happen to be driving vehicle #2, and see a fellow named Willie in a vehicle nearby, go ahead and start praying!

What about "Black Jack Davey"? Does anybody die in that one?

mandolino maximus
Jul-28-2011, 9:46am
Rovin' Gambler - Traditional / Bluegrass Classic (Check out Smash Hits of Bluegrass by The Mashville Brigade recorded at The Station Inn.)
Tragic Life - The Infamous Stringdusters (performed by)

I took the wife to the International Bluegrass Music Museum on The Banks of The Ohio in Owensboro. She would not "take a little walk."

Jul-28-2011, 11:01am
Found your "Mr. Fox" here.



This reminds me a bit of an old Scottish ballad called "The Boar and the Fox" that involves a female fox murdering a boar before their wedding day.


Mo Soar
Jun-28-2012, 11:15am
Thanks for the list, now I've got around 150 songs to listen to and work through (many of them I already know a version of).

Add: Paul Thorn "Bull Mountain Bridge" (written by Wild Bill Emerson)

also, from a Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem album my mother used to play when I was young: "Weela Wallia" (which I think is a variant of The Cruel Mother). Likewise "Butcher Boy" (suicide, not murder) from the same album. In a youtube clip from Pete Seeger's show they mention it's called Tarrytown in the version on this side of the pond.

Jun-28-2012, 11:48am
Katy Dear, AKA Silver Dagger - Worth mentioning several times. Dolly Parton and Old Crow Medicine Show have great versions.

Little Omie Wise by Doc (First song of his that I learned way back in junior High)

Pretty Peggy O, AKA Fennario as done by the Grateful Dead - Not strictly a murder ballad but someone dies and it sure is sad enough. They do a great instrumental version of it on the outtakes from Terrapin Station

Bob Dylan's Lonesome Hattie Caroll. Mason Jennings did a great version for the movie, I'm Not There,( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5w9QkzFj9A )

Jun-28-2012, 8:21pm
Bob Dylan's Ballad of Hollis Brown has been in rotation recently. The Neville Bros. did a nice updates version.

Jun-28-2012, 8:29pm

Local version done of Preston Miller

Jun-29-2012, 5:54am
Nice old thread. I have a live show from Tim O'brien, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas (and others) from 6/27/98 where it is (almost) an all murder ballad set. One of my all time favorites!

Jun-29-2012, 7:16am
What about "Frankie and Johnny"?

And as long as we're going pop, "Bad Bad Leroy Brown." Which would be cool klayzmerized.

Jun-29-2012, 7:20am
Shot his DOG? The man deserves no mercy.

Jun-29-2012, 7:33am
" In The Gravel Yard"

Michael H Geimer
Jun-29-2012, 8:53am
I think The Red Headed Stranger by Willie Nelson deserves at least a second mention in this thread, it being a murder ballad concept album.

"It was the time of the preacher ..."

Jun-29-2012, 5:27pm
Acoustic Dwight Yoakum " Buenos Noches From a Lonely Room"
I searched til I found them, then I cursed at the sight
Of their sleeping shadows in the cold neon light
In the dark morning silence I placed the gun to her head
She wore red dresses, but now she lay dead

Doesnt get any more murderish than that. Another I like, altho murder is the back story, is " Billy Austin" by Steve Earle, about a death row inmate moments from execution.................Kevin

Mo Soar
Jun-30-2012, 10:02am
What about "Frankie and Johnny"?

This one has been fun to research because there are so many versions easily available, between youtube and itunes and spotify and general internet searches, I think I have around 20 distinctly different versions that I've listened to. I've always found the transformations and adaptation of music as it travels around fascinating.

Jun-30-2012, 2:52pm
couple I found that were kinda chilling,

Cruel Brother - robber comes upon three sisters, will you marry me or die by my pen knife? he kills the first two, third one says you wouldn' do that if my brothers were here - well longer story short - the robber's one of the brothers.

The Boy that Burned in the Berryville Jail - robber jailed, jail catches on fire, jailer ignores his cries...

(nope, not walkin' by no river bank with no boy named Willie"

Jun-30-2012, 6:50pm
There's Planxty's "Little Musgrave" (The next stroke Lord Barnard struck, Little Musgrave ne'er struck more).

Norman Blake's "Billy Gray" is a keeper (Planxty did it as "True Love Knows No Season").

The afore-mentioned "Weela Waile" (both a gruesome murder ballad AND a children's song in Dublin) and, my personal favourite, "The Maid Of Cabra West" (he gave out many an oath and curse 'til he was dead I'm sure, then I lifted up the manhole lid and I dropped him down the sewer).

Give me a murder ballad over "moon, june, croon" any day of the week.


Mo Soar
Jul-01-2012, 10:55am
The afore-mentioned "Weela Waile" (both a gruesome murder ballad AND a children's song in Dublin)

Imagine, if you will, a little American girl going to half-day kindergarten and singing her favorite song for the teacher, who was appalled. It didn't even get a note home, the teacher marched the two blocks from the school to my house to confront my mother for playing such disreputable music to a child.

Jul-01-2012, 11:17am
"Ballad Of A Teenage Queen" He was gonna' do it but she beat him to it.


Jul-01-2012, 12:06pm
Dan Fogelburg had a good one in the early 80s called Tucson Az. A little slow as he recorded it but I think it would Bluegrass nice and tells a good ( ie terrible) story,

Jul-02-2012, 11:08am
Cruel Brother - robber comes upon three sisters, will you marry me or die by my pen knife? he kills the first two, third one says you wouldn' do that if my brothers were here - well longer story short - the robber's one of the brothers.

My understanding was that a knight innocently came courting, looked over all three three sisters, picked the third one. She says he needs to get "consent frae a’ my kin" and he does, but he forgets to get permission from her brother. During the ceremony the brother kills his sister. While the motive is never discussed, but its far more depraved than robbery.

Jul-02-2012, 12:02pm
At work, so no time to re-read the whole thing, but Clay Hess's Rock Castle County is pretty chilling...the last line just seals it. As a dad of a daughter, gives me a shiver every time...

Sorry if it's been mentioned before.

Jul-03-2012, 3:52am
Claude Dallas by Ian Tyson and its a true story........Kevin

Jul-03-2012, 8:49am
"Ballad Of A Teenage Queen" He was gonna' do it but she beat him to it.


Oops!! I meant "Carolyn The Teenage Queen"


Larry S Sherman
Jul-03-2012, 11:43am
Katy Dear, AKA Silver Dagger - Worth mentioning several times.

This one always leaves me confused. The two lovers are talking, "Ask your Mom, if she says Yes we'll get married, if she says no we'll run away." But the girl says it's no use asking 'cause they're sleeping and they have silver daggers by their beds. So instead of running away (seemed like a reasonable plan) they both kill themselves. I imagine the parents waking up and wondering what the heck happened? They never even said "No".

Maybe of these songs mystify me...I think the context is lost over the years.

Don't get me wrong, though, I think they're all great. My favorites are Two Sisters and Caleb Meyer.


Aug-16-2012, 7:44am
"Mollie Bawn": Alison Krause does a really haunting version with The Chieftans on "Down The Old Plank Road". Yeah I love this....

"Black & White" - CHerryholmes. One of murder and redemption.

Aug-16-2012, 8:25am
I like The Steel Drivers version of " If It Hadn't Been For Love"


Aug-16-2012, 12:35pm
Not Bluegrass in any way but an awesome murder ballad Ween: Buenos Tardes Amigo.

Aug-16-2012, 1:12pm
[QUOTE=Astro;1080115]I like The Steel Drivers version of " If It Hadn't Been For Love"

That Steel Drivers singer sounds a ton like Dave Evans :


Aug-16-2012, 9:07pm
A couple of my favorites:

The Well Below the Valley

"There's one of them buried beneath the tree
Another two buried beneath the stone

Two of them outside the graveyard wall
At the well below the valley-o"

The Night Before Larry Was Stretched

"...When he came to the nubbling chit,
He was tucked up so neat and so pretty,
The rumbler jogged off from his feet,
And he died with his feet to the city;"


Randi Gormley
Aug-17-2012, 8:09am
how interesting to see "nubbling chit" -- I read old (old) novels, and I've seen "nubbing cheat" used as British thieves cant for "hangman's noose." I wonder if the variation is an Americanism?

Aug-17-2012, 7:15pm
LOL - Charlie Sizemore


Charlie Waller - Secret of the Waterfall