Murder Ballads: Some Dark Music to Write By…

If you’re into country, bluegrass, western, appalachian or roots music, you’ve heard many a murder ballad, even if you weren’t sure what that was. It was the haunting one, usually minor keyed, that sort of stuck in your mind, with just a guitar or banjo, sometimes a steel guitar. And yeah, somebody gets killed, for the usual reasons: love, vengeance or money. Good listening, and great inspiration for writers. Well, me anyway, ’cause the box of life isn’t always full of the good chocolates, sometimes you get coconut.

Just a few of the singers/groups that have recorded murder ballads are Colter Wall, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Vandaveer, Civil Wars, John Paul White, Crooked Still, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, and lots more. For the ballads, some of these date back to the 1600s, many brought to America by Scots/Irish/English immigrants, while some of them are original compositions. Stagger Lee, Cruel Sister, Kate McCannon, Long Black Veil, Nebraska, You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive, there’s too many to list, but one of the classics is Pretty Polly. I ran across this video of Vandaveer’s version of Pretty Polly and it’s so good I wanted to share. Hope  you like it, too.


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