Richard Underwood’s sampling of interesting new (with occasional classic) murder ballad works as mentioned in “The loathsome (and the innocent) company we keep.”
Over Her Dead Body, written by John Bavoso with Seth Alcorn, Karen Lange, et. al and produced by Pinky Swear Productions (2016). According to the Pinky Swear Productions website, Over Her Dead Body won the Best Musical and Best Overall Show in the 2016 Capital Fringe Festival Audience Awards. Listen to a preview of the song “Little Sparrow” and an Over Her Dead Body rehearsal. Check out a review of Over Her Dead Body by Emily Crockett (DCTheatreScene.com) and a review of Over Her Dead Body by Vanessa Berben.
Murder Ballad, the Musical, by Julia George and Juliana Nash, first staged in New York City (also produced by Renegade Theater Company in Minnesota and by Truman State University), is scheduled to open in London in October 2016. This is a rock musical—not folk or old-time music. Take a listen to a London version of “Murder Ballad.” Read Ben Brantley’s New York Times review of Murder Ballad.
Search: Paul Clayton, a musical by Larry Mollin, which explores through folk music Clayton’s infatuation with Bob Dylan, unrequited love and betrayal, also received a lot of attention, including a review of Search by Joel Brown in The Boston Globe and a CurtainUp review of Search: Paul Clayton, the Man Who Loved Bob Dylan.
Be sure to explore visual artist Julyan Davis’s “exhibit of large scale narrative paintings, with accompanying lectures and musical performances,” “Dark Corners: The Appalachian Murder Ballads.” Before leaving the site, browse Julyan’s related links.
Another gifted visual artist who delves into this subject is Christine Kuhn. Take a look at Christine Kuhn’s “The Murder Ballads Exhibition in Itsy-Bitsy Photo Form.”
Here I am listing only a small sampling of the rich and diverse offerings, ranging from Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley and folk singer and collector Paul Clayton to some of the more recent individual artists and bands.
“Don’t Weep for Me,” Ralph Stanley, on Side by Side, Ralph Stanley & Ralph Stanley II (2014)
Paul Clayton, British and American Murder Ballads (1962).
Deceived, Ruth Gerson (2011). This recording includes “Omie Wise” and “Delia’s Gone,” both of which are among the true crime stories explored in CrimeSong. Read David Maine’s PopMatters review of Ruth Gerson’s Deceived.
Listen to samples from the digital album Love, Crime and Other Trouble, by Charming Disaster (2015). Charming Disaster curates a quarterly series, “Murder Ballad Mondays,” at Brooklyn’s Branded Saloon, 603 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn NY, with upcoming an upcoming show on September 19, 2016. Watch the video for Charming Disaster’s “Murderer.”
Murder Ballads, by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (2013; 1996)
Articles and blogs
Explore a bizarre “dark fairytale” of love, betrayal, revenge, sisters, flesh, bones, hair and a harp. The more recent “How 2 Sisters and 1 Murder Inspired 500 Songs,” by Natalie Zarrelli, February 11, 2016, Atlas Obscura takes a look at the English ballad, “Two Sisters.” Inside Natalie Zarrelli’s piece listen to a traditional version of the ballad and to Tom Waits’ rendition, “Two sister – Orphans (Bastards)” and be mesmerized by George Frederick Watt’s “Found Drowned” and “a
Murder Ballad Monday—Sing Out! (weekly posts)
“Eight of the Most Overlooked Bluegrass Murder Ballads,” by Daniel Mullins, October 31, 2014, BluegrassToday.com
For the Bloodiest Tales in American Music, a Revenge-Themed Sequel, by Merdith Ochs, December 12, 2013, NPR.org