Mother’s Malison/Clyde Water/Drowned Lovers

The River Clyde “Mother’s Malison” (Child 216) If the first song discussed in this blog was about the potentially dire consequences of following the counsel of one’s parents instead of the counsel of one’s heart, this week we’ll show just how dangerous the opposite course can be.  This week we’ll take … → read more

God Make You Safe and Free

Romeo and Juliet – Sir Frank Dicksee, 1884 Note: This is Part 3 of a three part series.  See also Part 1 and Part 2. Introduction What is it about this week’s song, “Matty Groves”, that attracts us so?  (If you’re not familiar with the ballad, check out the introductory post … → read more

Matty Groves / Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard

 Allegory of Love  (panel one) – Infidelity by Paolo Veronese, ca. 1570 This is Part 1 of a three part series.  See also Part 2, and Part 3. This week we go back to Britain, to the old ballads.  Yes, it’s one of *those* songs;  “Jerry Springer meets Days of Our Lives” in merry … → read more

Two Sisters / Wind and Rain

“Girl by Stream” Charles Van Shaick ca. 1880 This week finds us in new waters – sibling rivalry. Ok, ok, I know.  One thing to love about murder ballads is that we can’t dismiss the violence with simple explanations or psychobabble.  These songs are just too good for that.  They … → read more

Who’s really guilty here? Or, if it’s not Scottish…

Here we have Ewan MacColl’s version of Child #73, from his Classic Scots Ballads.  Thanks, Pat, for mentioning it.  The song is sung in Scots, and there are a few passages which I have yet to understand clearly, but the gist of the narrative and its differences with “Fair Ellender” … → read more

Fair Ellender

For the first selection: Fair Ellender.   Here is Jerry Garcia and David Grisman’s version from “Shady Grove.” Fair Ellender  (Spotify) Here’s the same song on YouTube: (link replaced 12/10/14) While not the most famous of the genre, this one has had some legs, with versions by Mike Seeger, another … → read more