Published Feb 27, 2012What is it?
The murder ballad dates back to the Middle Ages. In traditional ballad form, the song tells the story of a murder, mythical or true, historical or contemporary, and from the point of view of the perpetrator or the victim.
Who's doing it?
Everybody. As the popularity of folk music grew throughout the 20th century, musicians such as Woodie Guthrie, the Louvin Brothers, Bob Dylan, and the Kingston Trio were performing traditional Appalachian murder ballads. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released an entire album dedicated to the craft.
Musicians ranging from Neko Case (pictured, "Deep Red Bell") to Deep Dark Woods ("Farewell") to Blitzen Trapper ("Black River Killer") have written murder ballads. While most common considered in the country realm, it can be found anywhere. Braids' darkly ethereal 2011 hit, "Lammicken" is named after a traditional 18th century Scottish murder ballad, "Lamkin," about a mason who kills the wife and child of a nobleman who can't pay for the construction of his castle.
Check out our Murder Ballad playlist on Rdio here.