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Let's talk about murder ballads.

Scoville 26 May 07 - 08:12 PM
Woods 26 May 07 - 03:31 AM
fumblefingers 25 May 07 - 11:50 PM
Kim C 25 May 07 - 01:30 PM
Scoville 25 May 07 - 11:10 AM
Kim C 24 May 07 - 04:06 PM
GUEST,ifor 24 May 07 - 12:04 AM
iancarterb 23 May 07 - 11:54 PM
GUEST 23 May 07 - 10:53 PM
Kim C 23 May 07 - 04:28 PM
Scoville 22 May 07 - 11:55 AM
Kim C 22 May 07 - 09:56 AM
Rain Dog 22 May 07 - 08:00 AM
Big Al Whittle 22 May 07 - 05:54 AM
Stringsinger 21 May 07 - 05:04 PM
Kim C 21 May 07 - 04:40 PM
Snuffy 14 May 07 - 04:10 AM
GUEST,reggie miles 12 May 07 - 01:10 AM
GUEST,reggie miles 12 May 07 - 12:27 AM
Rog Peek 11 May 07 - 01:54 PM
GUEST 11 May 07 - 11:52 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 10 May 07 - 05:51 PM
Pioden 10 May 07 - 05:18 PM
Pioden 10 May 07 - 05:16 PM
GUEST,Scoville 10 May 07 - 10:51 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 09 May 07 - 11:47 PM
fumblefingers 09 May 07 - 10:25 PM
Snuffy 09 May 07 - 07:46 PM
GUEST 09 May 07 - 07:19 PM
GUEST,Scoville at scanner 09 May 07 - 05:03 PM
Mrrzy 09 May 07 - 01:53 PM
Mrrzy 09 May 07 - 01:51 PM
Rog Peek 09 May 07 - 01:21 PM
Snuffy 09 May 07 - 08:40 AM
cshurtz 09 May 07 - 03:29 AM
cshurtz 09 May 07 - 03:23 AM
GUEST,Gerry 09 May 07 - 03:14 AM
Big Al Whittle 09 May 07 - 01:27 AM
Scoville 08 May 07 - 11:45 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 08 May 07 - 10:34 PM
Pioden 08 May 07 - 09:02 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 08 May 07 - 08:32 PM
GUEST,Scoville at Dad's 08 May 07 - 08:23 PM
Deckman 08 May 07 - 08:04 PM
Big Al Whittle 08 May 07 - 07:12 PM
Deckman 08 May 07 - 06:44 PM
Den 08 May 07 - 02:32 PM
Big Al Whittle 08 May 07 - 01:26 PM
Kim C 07 May 07 - 03:36 PM
GUEST,cliff 04 May 07 - 04:16 PM
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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Scoville
Date: 26 May 07 - 08:12 PM

Kim C, that would be Bobby Mackey's Music World. (Sorry, I'm also a ghost story fiend.)


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Woods
Date: 26 May 07 - 03:31 AM

Though it's not "traditional", I personally enjoy the humor of Tom Lehrer's excellent murder ballad that he entitled The Irish Ballad
"About a maid I'll sing a song,
Sing rickety-tickety-tin..."

Woods


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: fumblefingers
Date: 25 May 07 - 11:50 PM

"Knoxville Girl" is an old bluegrass ballad about a man who beats his girl to death out of jealosy.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Kim C
Date: 25 May 07 - 01:30 PM

Scoville, there's a whole book about the Pearl Bryan ballads, called "Poor Pearl, Poor Girl." I can't think of the author's name offhand but it's pretty readily available as a used book.

Interestingly enough, the murder of Pearl Bryan is said to be connected to a supposedly haunted nightclub in northern KY.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Scoville
Date: 25 May 07 - 11:10 AM

Norman Blake's "Billy Gray" (which is in Digitrad under "True Love Knows No Season" or something to that effect) involves murder, although I don't know if it fits the pattern Kim wants. (It was also recorded by Robert Earl Keen, who probably has a number of murder ballads of his own, if Kim wants discographic information, too.)

"Girl Behind the Bar" is a classic (I've got it on the Red Clay Ramblers & Fiddlin' Al McCandless and on Jay Ungar's Catskill Mountain Goose Chase LP).

I assume "Omie Wise" and "Pearl Bryan" have already been mentioned.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Kim C
Date: 24 May 07 - 04:06 PM

Stick it in your ear, Gargoyle. If you read my original post, the only thing I specifically asked for was people's experiences singing a particular type of song. Surveying a group of people is a common research tool but I wouldn't expect you to know that, since I have never seen you contribute anything of worth to this forum in the 8 years I have been a member. I didn't ask anyone to do my homework for me, you pompous twit. Now go away and leave me the fuck alone, and pick on someone your own size.

Thanks to all of you who responded sincerely. I appreciate your suggestions very much.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: GUEST,ifor
Date: 24 May 07 - 12:04 AM

One of the songs that i wan to learn is the Ballad of Timothy Evans by Ewan Mccoll ...very powerful and direct...and the man was innocent !
ifor


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: iancarterb
Date: 23 May 07 - 11:54 PM

The only murder story about police corruption I can think of is (one of my all time favorites) Duncan and Brady.   Carter B


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: GUEST
Date: 23 May 07 - 10:53 PM

WILL THIS THREAD STAY ALIVE FOR ONE BILLION POSTS?

Keep them hands a squeezen' KIMCHEE....

Aim for bucket
1. Squeeze at the top
2. Pull down
3. Squeeze fingers 3-4-5

Repeat- Repeat - Repeat.

Keep it up for four more months and you may have half-a-chapter-ONE by the end of summer. (Five required)

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Kim C
Date: 23 May 07 - 04:28 PM

Oh yes. I love that song. I think it fits him, though, because the music is bouncy, but the lyrics are dark. Quirkiness at its finest.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Scoville
Date: 22 May 07 - 11:55 AM

I was looking for this thread the other day and couldn't find it. Pbbbt.

Just dug out my Lyle Lovett CD's and rediscovered "L.A. County", which is sort of Lyle-atypical. He doesn't generally come across as a murder ballad kind of guy, but there it is.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Kim C
Date: 22 May 07 - 09:56 AM

Thanks Rain Dog --- I will definitely check that out.

Wonder if I can get aholt of Tom Waits to find out what his audience reaction to that song has been?


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Rain Dog
Date: 22 May 07 - 08:00 AM

Tom Waits has a version of Two Sisters on his latest CD Orphans


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 22 May 07 - 05:54 AM

Stringsinger - we can't tell if you're singing as you type. You can do if you like, we don't mind.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Stringsinger
Date: 21 May 07 - 05:04 PM

is it OK if we just talk about them and not sing them?

F.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Kim C
Date: 21 May 07 - 04:40 PM

"I gather this is restricted to British-tradition ballads and not American murder ballads from other traditions"

Not necessarily. I do want to talk about American murder ballads as many of them are based on true events.

Gargoyle, bless you, but I'm not that young, and I've been studying my subject matter for a number of years. Probably not as long as many of you, but I'm hardly wet behind the ears.

Reggie Miles --- I would like to be able to include some modern songs as an example of how traditional ballads continue to influence songwriting/storytelling in the present day.

It will all get whittled down in the process.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Snuffy
Date: 14 May 07 - 04:10 AM

OK Rog. If Frankie wasn't a murderess, what about Lizzie Borden? Justifiable homicide by a victim of child abuse?


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: GUEST,reggie miles
Date: 12 May 07 - 01:10 AM

Okay, this may be way out of the ballpark but here goes. Does anyone recall a rather obscure Twilight Zone episode where a fella by the name of Floyd Burney (The Rockabilly Boy) goes in search of a fresh new folk song that he can buy cheaply from local 'folks' and turn into a big hit, so he can pocket the profits for himself? He happens into some backwoods area where he hears a song being sung by a beautiful young woman. His passion for the mysterious mountain maiden is inflamed as he tries to coax the unsual ballad from her but she is illusive about singing him the whole song. When he's confronted by her previous suitor, a local mountain man, a struggle ensues and he kills the man. Floyd is then pursured by the man's kin. As he tries to flee with the woman he comes to realization that the song that she is singing is about him and everything that's happened to him since the moment they met. She tries in vain to change the outcome of the song by begging him to not run away this time, but in the end nothing changes and Burney is killed by the those seeking revenge for the death of the mountain man.

It's an eerie melody, sad and beautiful.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: GUEST,reggie miles
Date: 12 May 07 - 12:27 AM

I suppose Rudy Vallie's version of "With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm", Phil Ochs' "The Ballad of Alferd Packer" or Bert Williams' "Somebody Else Not Me" might be too humorous to be considered a valid murder ballads for your research. What about contemporary ballad writers of songs about murder? Would these be of interest to you, or are you limiting your research to only those songs that have been written long ago?

A little off topic but as a writer I've pondered these questions. Is there a reasonable time frame that limits a writer's exploration of the facts, or lack there of, when trying to create a song about an event that is considered heinous, like murder? Do the facts of such an act really matter in the creative process? It seems to me that in this day and age of disinformation, and top secrets we in this country (the U.S.) aren't even allowed to know the facts of so many horrific acts, due to government secrecy. We merely banter back and forth the what-ifs until we're all sick to death of hearing about the subject. We murder any real interest in the truth via our incessant speculation.

That said, I've written a few that might qualify.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Rog Peek
Date: 11 May 07 - 01:54 PM

Snuffy

Because it was America, in France it would probably have been viewed as a crime of passion!


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: GUEST
Date: 11 May 07 - 11:52 AM

here's my experience of singing a few Scots/English Ballads:

"Two Sisters/Binnorie" AND "The Twa Corbies" (linked to Three Ravens) - I've taught both of these songs in workshops and creative projects with children and young people and they love the gruesome stories. In the former, they found the supernatural twist and come-uppance upon the murdering sister very satisfying and in the latter they enjoyed the "who dunnit?" mystery quality. The stripped down urgency of the action and the simplicity of the language is really appealing to children (I'm talking age 9 years up).

I find all of the family murder related songs need extra care in their introduction and performance, because it's likely that those issues are live and close to the bone for at least some of any given audience. So I've had people choose, after an introduction, to go to the loo during, for example, "The Cruel Mother", or who've found "Sheath and Knife" obviously uncomfortable. But equally as a performer I've felt able to make quite explicit links between some of these songs and contemporary moral and political issues/events.

Many older generation singers in Scotland are/were wary of singing some of the biggest songs in certain settings e.g. Mill O Tifty's Annie/The Trumpeter of Fyvie.

Ailie Munro's book "The Democratic Muse" is worth reading for the short section on "The Banks of Red Roses" alone, and the very different interpretations of it acorded by male and female singers.

Good luck.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 10 May 07 - 05:51 PM

John Hardy, Tom Dula(Dooley), Lord Randall (Child Ballad #10, I think),Pretty Polly, Cocaine Blues, The Cruel Mother, Stagger Lee and, on a lighter note, Eggs & Marrowbone. There's no shortage of material on either side of the "pond."


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Pioden
Date: 10 May 07 - 05:18 PM

Hmmm. That was quick, and no, not the same, just a similar theme. Probably happened more than once *grin*
Pioden


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Pioden
Date: 10 May 07 - 05:16 PM

Guest Gerry - thanks for the lead, I'll look into it later. Guest Scoville, the song you mention, Black-haired lass, sounds similar to the bramble briar, except the sister has a dream that tells her where to find his body. Are you familiar with both lyrics? I'll try to look them up.
Pioden


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: GUEST,Scoville
Date: 10 May 07 - 10:51 AM

Oh, my goodness--I completely forgot about "Mr. Garfield" and the one about the McKinley assasination!


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 09 May 07 - 11:47 PM

I have refreshed the Kennedy Assassination thread for your perusal. There are many murder ballads there.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: fumblefingers
Date: 09 May 07 - 10:25 PM

191. Willie Nelson song is "I Just Can't Let You Say Goodbye"


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Snuffy
Date: 09 May 07 - 07:46 PM

If it weren't murder, why did she fry in the chair?


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: GUEST
Date: 09 May 07 - 07:19 PM

Frankie and Johnnie was not murder - it was payback - an payback is always a bitch - he was her man but he done her wrong - the SOB had it coming


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: GUEST,Scoville at scanner
Date: 09 May 07 - 05:03 PM

The Twa Sisters/Wind & Rain/Barkshire Tragedy family.

There's also "the Black-Haired Lass", in which the suitor is killed by the girl's brothers but comes back as a ghost to tell her about her family's treachery. The recording I have is Bob & Evelyne Beers.

"Boglin's Smuggling Men" is an Illinois variant on a UK song in which a woman lures a young man into the woods, where he is robbed and killed. I've got it on an Allen Street String Band tape that I believe is no longer available, but I'm sure it's on other recordings, too.

"Pretty Polly". "Jesse James" (all of them), among lots of other outlaw ballads. "Captain Kidd".

New "trad-esque" songs could include Gillian Welch's "Caleb Meyer" and "One Morning", and there are lots of country songs that extend the genre into modern times.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Mrrzy
Date: 09 May 07 - 01:53 PM

Ah - found it. It was older than I thought.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Mrrzy
Date: 09 May 07 - 01:51 PM

Where is my thread about when the survivor kisses the risen dead person they have to die too? I'd be very interested in whether that is as prevelant as I think.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Rog Peek
Date: 09 May 07 - 01:21 PM

Littledrummer

Saw Ralph McTell in Bristol last month, Bently & Craig was one of the songs he included in his set.

Ewan MacColl also wrote of this murder - 'Derek Bentley'


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Snuffy
Date: 09 May 07 - 08:40 AM

Frankie & Johnny?


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: cshurtz
Date: 09 May 07 - 03:29 AM

Sorry for the blank message above...anyway, for me it gets no better than "banks of the ohio" There is this great version of the song on one of Alan Lomax's Southern Journey series discs that actually leaves out the chorus, but provides some additional lyrics that I don't hear in other versions. It's a delite


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: cshurtz
Date: 09 May 07 - 03:23 AM


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 09 May 07 - 03:14 AM

Pioden, after you've worked out your arrangement of Jack Orion, you might want to hear how Nancy Kerr & James Fagan do the song. It's on one of their CDs.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 May 07 - 01:27 AM

I think whats stirring in my mind Deckman, is a memory.

I seem to remember a review in Sing Out of an American Scholarly work called The Fatal Summer and it was all about the murder ballad as an identifiable genre - The Banks of the Ohio, Tom Dula, Pretty Polly.

Two lovers, a tryst, he does her in.......
In a way Willie Moore 'feels' similar in spirit to these songs - even though there isn't a murder. the same feeling of doomed youth - ruined by love. Although Barbara Ellen wouldn't fit.

The infanticide songs (Weila Weila, The Well Below the Valley, The Cruel Mother) - surely another genre.

The Lord Returns home and kicks up shit(Raggle taggle Gypsies, Matty Groves, Jack Orion, Long Lankin) - another genre again.

Its a sensual thing - I don't claim to be any kind of folklorist or really find the tradition much use in my own writing. Just something I think I've noticed.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Scoville
Date: 08 May 07 - 11:45 PM

Gargoyle, I wasn't complaining, I was just suggesting a few more songs. I don't care what she ends up writing her paper on (although I agree with whoever said above that she probably needs to narrow her topic, but she can cross that bridge later). I was merely pointing out that there are loads of American murder ballads that are not/are not purely UK in origin. I wasn't taking it personally and I don't need someone to gripe on my behalf (I can do my own bitching perfectly well).


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 08 May 07 - 10:34 PM

Today, I have .....burnt-my-eyes-out .... and been entralled... with the Bailey's ...and other Brit Court documents recently made "on-line."

If a "legitimate" researcher were seeking for a "treasure trove" you should snatch your knowledge, your ballads, your dates, and plow new fields before they have "gone to briar."

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

I would do so myself - but - contracts are due and waiting to be fulfilled.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Pioden
Date: 08 May 07 - 09:02 PM

I love this discussion - I have recently chosen two new songs to learn. but they are not ready for public consumption yet - I want to get them just right, because they are both "murder songs", if you define that as a song in which one of the particulars is wrongfully killed. They both come off a CD called English & Scottish Folk Ballads, they're sung by a variety of musicians. A.L. Lloyd is the first singer listed, produced by Topic Records in London, c1996.
The first song is The Bramble Briar, in which a servant and the daughter of the household fall in love, and her brothers kill him. The second is Jack Orion, who kills his apprentice for cuckholding him with a lady that invited Jack to her chamber. I wonder if that one was originally considered a wrongful killing, b/c the apprentice had sex with a Countess, and that was probably punishable by death back then. Anyone know? By today's standards, it is a murder, though, so I'm treating it as one. I've had fun working with the melodies and set up, trying to get them to a point that today's audience, with much shortened attention span, will find enough interest (varied melodies, chorus, etc.). I am a bit concerned about performing them, don't know how the people will react, but I'm willing to try it.
As to why they're so fascinating, I would direct your attention to similarities with True Crime Novels, as another place to look for reasons, for people to ask why they like them.
There has always been a place for the ballads, and they are perhaps being replaced by the TC novels. People are always interested in what their fellows have done wrong, or misfortunes that have befallen them, whether it's the "there, but by grace go I", curiosity, morbidity, or some other reason. That would be the interesting discovery of you research. There's also some similarity with the talk shows that go on, sensationalism, and tabloids.
I, for one, would be interested in reading your findings!
Have fun with it,
Pioden


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 08 May 07 - 08:32 PM

Yeah - Scoville at Dad's

That is pretty much my take (and clone-deletions to my additions) on this thread.

It will be an interesting day when this young filly meets with her master-wrangler....and they shoe the hoss she plans to ride her paper on.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: GUEST,Scoville at Dad's
Date: 08 May 07 - 08:23 PM

I gather this is restricted to British-tradition ballads and not American murder ballads from other traditions; otherwise, I'd suggest "Stagolee", "Little Sadie", and "Ella Speed". "Stagolee" and "Ella Speed" are African-American, and "Little Sadie" generally shows up in white string-band repertoires but frequently has a lot in common with "Ella" (and a lot of string-band tunes are disguised African-American play songs or work songs, so it would not surprise me if "Sadie" was borrowed from one of those traditions, as well).


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Deckman
Date: 08 May 07 - 08:04 PM

"drum" ... I'm curious what you mean? I'd like it if you'd explain further? Bob


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 08 May 07 - 07:12 PM

yes, but are all these songs actual murder ballads?

The English and Irish 'feel' like something different.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Deckman
Date: 08 May 07 - 06:44 PM

Kim,

This thread caused me to try to remember a murder ballad that I first heard when I was a teenager ... over 100 years ago. It is titled "Harry Orchard," and it's well steeped in frontier Idaho history. My ponderings drove me to my local library, where lo and behold, I found this book: "BIG TROUBLE," by J. Anthony Lukas, Simon & Schuster, 1997.

By the way, "Harry Orchard" is in "American Murder Ballads." CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Den
Date: 08 May 07 - 02:32 PM

The well below the valley, is mostly about incest it alludes to babies being buried beneath the stone. Now wheather those babies were murdered or died at birth is open to interpretation. Biddy McGrath did murder three sailors with the straps of her bra however. Then there's William Taylor. Welia Welia Walia is another. Johnny of Brady's Lea. I could go on.


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 08 May 07 - 01:26 PM

Interesting....?

what do you reckon?

there has to be a man and a woman, a tryst, she's done in....how about Maria Marten in the Red Barn then.

or would any murder do...

Ralph McTell's Bentley and Craig?


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: Kim C
Date: 07 May 07 - 03:36 PM

Great! Thanks for the tip!


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Subject: RE: Let's talk about murder ballads.
From: GUEST,cliff
Date: 04 May 07 - 04:16 PM

The book is avaiilable on Amazon, new HC for about $7.50 *including* P&H(!)


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