Watch Out! 10 Murder Ballads for Halloween

Johnny Cash - Delia's Gone

Hello ghouls and goblins! Halloween celebrations in some form has a long and rich tradition in 16th century European and Scandinavia. At roughly the same time the murder ballad evolved right along with it. Both washed up on these US shores with the pilgrims and were shaped, over time, with our own uniques cultural influences and musical styles.

Gallons of blood, and scores of lifeless bodies, have been detailed in many harrowing ditties. The genres of folk, bluegrass and country music count more death and malice
than in metal and gangster rap combined (to be fair, they have had centuries to stack up bodies.)

I bring to you this spooky season some contemporary versions and variations of the murder ballad. From the Wilburn Brothers’ version of “The Knoxville Girl,” an Appalachian murder ballad, derived from the 19th-century Irish ballad The Wexford Girl. There also modern takes like Lindi Ortega’s menacing “Murder Of Crows.”

Enjoy these dark treats and leave your favorites in the comments.

Wilburn Brothers – Knoxville Girl

Rachel Brooke – The Black Bird

Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers – Where’s the Devil?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgphO4JJIrw

Lera Lynn – Bobby, Baby

O’Death – Lowtide – Video

Stab – The Pine Box Boys

Lindi Ortega – Murder Of Crows

Porter Wagoner – Cold Hard Facts Of Life
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl4yjGzWOvI

Bobbie Gentry – Ode To Billie Joe

Johnny Cash – Delia’s Gone

Twang Nation Halloween Mix 2011

Ah October. When the freshly fallen snow and turned leaves fall to cover your tracks by the river bottom where you lured your dear heart with the promise of warm cider and sweet kisses. I guess she didn’t realize you knew she could not be true. This list of contemporaneity and classic murder ballads and general Southern-Gothic debauchery and misery is just the thing for carving pumpkins and ex-lovers. You can hear this at Twang Nation Halloween Mix 2011 mix on Spotify.

Got a favorite grim ditty? Post it below.

     

    1. Tenderloud – Shadow Red Hand
    2. Those Poor Bastards – Nightmare World
    3. The Handsome Family – The Lost Soul
    4. Reverend Glasseye – Blood O’ Lambs
    5. Nina Nastasia/Jim White – The Day I Would Bury You
    6. Jay Munly – Old Service Road
    7. Strawfoot – The Lord’s Wrath
    8. Neko Case – Things That Scare Me
    9. Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers – Blood on the Bluegrass
    10. The Pine Box Boys – Arkansas Killing Time
    11. Sons of Perdition – Blood In The Valley
    12. Rachel Brooke – This Painful Summer
    13. Willie Nelson – I Just Can’t Let You Say Good-Bye
    14. The Walkabouts – Lover’s Crime
    15. Those Poor Bastards – Family Graveyard
    16. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Cranston
    17. Trailer Bride – Graveyard
    18. Midnight Choir – Poisoned Veins
    19. C. Gibbs – Devil’s Water
    20. Christian Williams – You Ain’t Exempt
    21. Slackeye Slim – Judgment Day
    22. Muleskinner Jones – Come Inside, Stranger
    23. O’Death – Ghost Head
    24. Steve Von Till – A Grave Is A Grim Horse

    The Best of 2010

    It’s that time again. The end of the year list that are as common as as spam in your inbox, but it’s tradition and I’m a sucker for tradition. So here we go!

    If you follow my twitter feed (http://twitter.com/#!/TwangNation) you’ll already know what’s on this list. I did the countdown as seperate tweets lest week and I got a great response. You also know that its not merely a top 10 but a top 25! That’s right, you get 25% more music for your money.

    It has been another great year for Americana/roots music, and from what’s currently coming across my desk for 2011 we can look forward to another. Old-timers are beating on the barn door and upstarts are using old parts to make new works that advance the form while staying true to the roots.  The genre appears to be attracting and cultivating the type of nurturing and craftsmanship that labels used to practice in the golden days of the 60s and early 70s. Of course this time without the lavish pay-out. The music industry is in turmoil from the corner office view but from the touring van and the laptop it’s  a prime-time for opportunity. And if you’re a burgeoning musician concerned about the current conditions I urge you to purchase Dr. Ralph Stanley’s book Man of Constant Sorry and learn about what REAL hard time look like.

    So I raise a pint and celebrate an embarrassment of riches that show the love of craft and and honor in roots that defines a road of American culture that is often overlooked and forgotten but often leads to the promised land.

    As the year comes to a close, I’m reflecting on the past four years of writing Minkin’s Music and all the good times with people I’ve met along the way. May the spirit of the season touch your soul and let comfort and joy shine upon you throughout the upcoming year.

    1. Mat D – Plank Road Drag – goo.gl/JmxJL
    2. Jamey Johnson – Guitar song- goo.gl/quZFh
    3. Ray Wylie Hubbard – A: Enlightenment B: Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C) – goo.gl/VMe2Z
    4. Truckstop Darlin’ – Truckstop Darlin’ – goo.gl/jcRi0
    5. Reckless Kelly – Somewhere in Time- goo.gl/gwqGM
    6. Miranda Lambert – Revolution – goo.gl/Ana72
    7. Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues – goo.gl/ZIU2V
    8. Lindsay Fuller – The Last Light I See – goo.gl/wZsFI
    9. Elizabeth Cook – Welder – goo.gl/kiEVi
    10. Jason & The Scorchers  –  Halcyon Times – goo.gl/gzf0g
    11. Mandolin Orange – Quiet Little Room – goo.gl/tPcHS
    12. Black Twig Pickers – Ironto Special – goo.gl/sipmJ
    13. Possessed By Paul James – Feed The Family – goo.gl/0BjNl
    14. Joe Thompson – Yankee Twang – goo.gl/whgRF
    15. Joe Pug – Messenger – goo.gl/VQt31
    16. Carolina Chocolate Drops  – Genuine Negro Jig – goo.gl/38tmF
    17. The Sadies – Darker Circles – goo.gl/z5nMt
    18. 6 Day Bender – E’ville Fuzz – goo.gl/xLDK6
    19. I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In the House – Sounds of Dying – goo.gl/AhIG1
    20. Doc Dailey & Magnolia Devil – Victims, Enemies & Old Friends – goo.gl/twVaZ
    21. Shineyribs – Well After Awhile – goo.gl/8kgWY
    22. Patty Griffin – Downtown Church – goo.gl/YVXav
    23. Whitey Morgan & the 78′s – Whitey Morgan & the 78′s- goo.gl/HM2af
    24. Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers  – Agridustrial – goo.gl/ldsGN
    25. Mary Gauthier – The Foundling – goo.gl/fKAJb

    10 Spooky Gothic Country Halloween Songs

    Despite Nashville’s best efforts to sanitize it for mass-consumption country and roots music has a long history of dealing with the dark side of life. Murder, violence, inebriation, the Devil, graveyards –  all the classic themes that also weave through All Hallows Eve are there. Hard times,  hard feelings and the tension between a righteous life and the tugs of temptation have led to some of the best music made. Gothic Country bands revel in dark misery like Carrie White drenched in pig’s blood. Except without all the telekinetic smiting. Enjoy!

    10.  Those Poor Bastards: This World Is Evil –  There are few Gothic Country bands thatrepresent the genre so thouroughly as TPB. This World Is Evil is a prime example of the wretched wonder that they bring to thir live show.

    9.  Reverend Glasseye: 17 Lashes 17 Lashes is a horns-driven dark sea shanty by Austin-based Rev. Glasseye (Adam Glasseye ex-member of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club) worthy of going down with the ship with.

    8.  Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots: Amen Corner – This is a side project for Munly Munly, the front man for Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. It’s a yelping slice of brooding goodness.

    7.  Sixteen Horsepower: Wayfaring Stranger – This is a live version of  Wayfaring Stranger from Club Lek, January 26 2000. 16 HP is no longer a band but this is a great testament of a man meeting his maker.

    6. Scott H Biram: Blood, Sweat & Murder – Austin’s Dirty Ol’ One Man Band’s excellent gutbucket murder tune.

    5. Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers:  Agony Wagon – Part Western-noir and part klezmer band Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers’ Agony Wagon is a frantic plummet into the pit of hell.

    4. Creech Holler: Pretty Polly -A gritty take on the traditional English-language murder ballad.

    3. Strawfoot: Churchyard Cough – A rousing Irish jig about the dirt nap from this fine band’s upcoming release How We Prospered.

    2. Pine Box Boys: I Kept Her Heart – A boot stomping take on the murder ballad from this great San Francisco-based band.

    1. O’Death: Low Tide – More frantic mayhem and doom from this New York band on what could be thier best song.

    Google Launches Music Search With MySpace, Lala, Pandora, and More – http://bit.ly/Eu5PS

    JD Wilkes Side Project – The Dirt Daubers

    Jessica Cassyle Carr at Alibi.com holds a Q&A with Denver based former 16 Horsepower frontman and current Gothic Americana singer/songwriter David Eugene (aka Wovenhand.)

    The Arizona Daily Star gives us a peak at the A-list alt.country artist packed tribute album for the Hacienda Brothers leader Chris Gaffney. Joe Ely, Los Lobos, Dave Alvin, Tom Russell, James McMurtry, Robbie Fulks, John Doe, Dave Gonzales and members Calexico and more  appear. The Hacienda Brothers‘ final album, “Arizona Motel,” came out last June, two months after Gaffney’s death.

    I’m a huge fan of the Psychobilly/Gothic sideshow that is Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers so I was pleased that LeighAbsinthia over at the Hank III cussin’ board brought to my attention JD Wilkes roots music side project, along with his wife Layne Hendrickson. Ladies and gentleman I bring you The Dirt Daubers.

    The Dirt Daubers – “Sugar Baby”

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFVy9R3UsCA[/youtube]

    Seven Signs Now on DVD

    If you want a  glimpse of the contemporary, raw,  rural South you need to pick up the film Seven Signs. It’s the directorial debut for the Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers front man J.D. Wilkes, in collaboration with  the  Lexington, Kentucky based independent production company JuddFilms, the film offers a document of the  eccentricities, traditions, myths and superstitions of  some of the most marginalized ares in America. Think Deliverance meets Errol Morris. Makes a great stocking stuffer for your snotty, urbane cousin.

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqbXSOtkLho[/youtube]

    Best Releases of 2007

    Music sales are down in most genres but the Americana and roots sales look strong for 2007. The labels still sue fans, bitch and whine about online piracy which is only half of the story. The other half is the cultivation of mediocre talent that produces “music” with the shelf life of nachos. If you look at the mainstream Country music field it’s as if we are in the 70’s and all we have is the Monkees or the Bay City Rollers and there were no Hendrix or Dylan to balance it all out.

    Luckily there’s the borderland of Americana and roots music that brings creativity, diversity as well as a respect for history and a calculated abandonment for rules in equal amounts. Americana is the genetic mutation that makes the musical breed heartier, healthier and more of a mutt.

    2007 brought in some great new talent and allowed a legend to bid a proper goodbye. All picks are my own and reflect my taste and bias in all it’s wondrous white-bred glory. Now on with the list…

    10. Southern Culture On The Skids – “Countrypolitan Favorites” – Featuring 15 tunes typically associated with other artists SCOTS burns a hole through their hillbilly shtick to show the exceptional band they really are. SCOTS deliver the Kinks “Muswell Hillbilly,” T. Rex’s “Life’s a Gas,” and the Byrds‘ “Have You Seen Her Face” with respect and passion and the cover of George Jones’ ode to the joys of wife swapping, “Let’s Invite Them Over” is a classic reinterpretation on an old infamous chestnut. This release is a country-fried delight!

    9. Ridley Bent – “Buckles and Boots” – Canadian hick-hop gone country traditionalist Ridley Bent came out of left field for me. I was aware of his fellow countryman and partner in rhyme (rap humor, heh!) Buck 65 but had not heard of the Halifax born, Alberta bred singer/songwriter blends the right amount of Bakersfield and Texas outlaw to tell clever stories for the head and the heart.

    8. Jason Isbell – “Sirens of the Ditch” – Riding with the Drive By Truckers during their move from the country-rock fringes into what amounts to as close to mainstream success, Jason Isbell decided to take his own path. Many of the catchiest and heartfelt songs on recent DBT releases have been Isbell penned, Outfit, Dank/Manuel and the classic Decoration Day. It then comes as no surprise that Isbell carried through that keen-eyed and passion onto his solo debut and features DBT bassist Shonna Tucker, drummer Brad Morgan, and DBT founder/front man Patterson Hood, who also co-produced this release on almost every track.

    7. Robert Plant / Alison Krause – “Raising Sand” – When I got word that Robert Plant was kicking around Nashville and working with bluegrass chanteuse and John Wait duet partner Alison Krauss I met the news with trepidation and dread. Would Plant approach American roots music with the historical revisionism Led Zeppelin brought to Delta blues or would it be a gilded palace of cheese? Happily Plant channels the spirit of the hills and prairies and let’s the crystal voiced Krauss set the tone for the surprisingly wonderful release.

    6. Th Legendary Shack Shakers – “Swampblood” – Still one of the best live bands crisscrossing America today, Th Legendary Shack Shakers last installment of their “Tentshow Trilogy” has the band going all out with Pentecostal ferver and Dixie-core abandon. Most American genres from the past century are poured into a grinder and rendered into a frantically dark-Gothic elixir for the restless soul.

    5. John Fogerty – “Revival” – A boy born in the Bay Area (not on the bayou) certainly earned his roots cred wailing his backwoods caterwaul fronting Credence Clearwater Revival. As the title makes apparent, “Revival” harkens back to the CCR days more then any other Fogerty solo work (due mostly to litigious reasons) and the man sounds more newly fired-up and impassioned, comfortable as a well-worn flannel shirt, and shows Fogerty as the roots-rock master he is.

    4. Kelly Willis – “Translated From Love” – Somewhere between Americana and British pop Kelly Willis’ “Translated From Love” is a country pop masterpiece. Tight, smart hooks coupled with traditional instruments compliment Willis clear stream vocals to make this the best release for her so far.

    3b. Patty Griffin – “Children Running Through” – Patty Griffin has never sounded more confident and transcends songwriting to arrive somewhere near artistic perfection.

    3a. Dale Watson – “From the Cradle to the Grave” – I published this list and then it occurred to me that I had overlooked one of the best releases of the year. Maybe it was the early 2007 drop date, maybe it was the beer…whatever…so now I’m going to punt with a 3a, 3b (my blog, my rules!) Dale goes old school, old testament school, on this excellent harkening back to country troubadours of the past.

    2. Ryan Bingham – “Mescalito” – Ryan Bingham sounds more ragged and rugged than his 25 years on this earth might lead you to believe. “Mescalito” is sun-soaked and West Texas dust choked and nails the right balance between outlaw country and rock and roll swagger.
    This is the sound of the lonesome road, the rowdy roadhouse and the front porch in one package.

    1. Porter Wagoner – “Wagonmaster” – Marty Stuart has earned a special bar stool in honky-tonk heaven for all he’s created, championed and, not least of all, helping Porter Wagoner create his finale (there’s a stool right near by for Anti records for releasing it when Nashville turned up their noses). I was lucky enough to see Marty and Porter perform in New York City just before “Wagonmaster” was released. Porter was visibly moved and humbled that the sold out show proved that even after 55 years of recording people still held the “Thin Man from the West Plains” in the highest regard. “Wagonmaster” is a crystallization of a what made Wagoner a country music legend, Puritan aesthetic, engaging storytelling of the lost and the hardscrabble. At the age of 80 Wagoner went out with honor and dignity. Unfortunately he had to look outside Nashville, in all their market-tested, plastic wisdom, to do so.

    Honorable mention:

    Dwight Yoakam – Dwight Sings Buck
    Levon Helm – Dirt farmer
    Miranda Lambert – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
    Joe Whyte – Devil in the Details
    Pam TillisRhinestoned
    Shooter Jennings – The Wolf
    Avett Brothers – Emotionalism
    Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger
    Joe Ely Happy – Songs From Rattlesnake Gulch
    Steve Earle – Washington Square Serenade
    Old Crow Medicine Show – Big Iron World
    Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog
    Kendel Carson – Rearview Mirror Tears
    Cadillac Sky – Blind Man Walking
    Willie Nelson -Songbird
    Betty LaVette – Scene of the Crime
    Chris Knight – The Trailer Tapes
    Hackensaw Boys – Look Out
    Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ray Price – Last Of The Breed
    Grayson Capps – Wail & Ride
    Jim Lauderdale – Bluegrass
    Robbie Fulks – Revenge!
    Merle Haggard – The Bluegrass Sessions

    PopMatters Best of Americana 2007

    Adding to their earlier list of country, pop-country  and singer-songwriter albums of 2007, PopMatters.com adds their list of 2007’s best Americana music. Or as I like to call it, the stuff that doesn’t fit the narrow country mold cast by Nashville and usually kicks that woeful genres ass. Where else could the likes of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers (who once opened for Plant on tour) and Bettye LaVette be found on the same list? Like America herself, this is a big tent. Look for Twang Nation’s list of the best of 2997 next week.