“Don’t murder me …” – Dire Wolf

“In the Timbers of Fennario…” Today’s murder ballad dances merrily along borderlines with which we’ve become familiar in this blog; boundaries between celebration and fear, civilization and savagery, traditional and post-modern balladry – and of course that inscrutable passage between life and death.  “Dire Wolf” is an unabashedly happy song in … → read more

China Doll

Introduction It is, apparently, awfully hard to find a picture of a broken or cracked china doll online that doesn’t immediately bring one to the brink of depression.  The one above, though, inspires me.  I wish I could link you to more of the artist’s work. Despite the strange title … → read more

NEW RIDERS of the PURPLE SAGE: (Two New Releases)

          NEW RIDERS of the PURPLE SAGE Instant Armadillo Blues: Best of 1971-1975 Raven 345 Raven Records Web Site             NEW RIDERS of the PURPLE SAGE 17 Pine Avenue Woodstock 0037 Woodstock Records Web Site New Riders Web Site   The … → read more

Two Sisters Redux – Part 2

detail from Twa Sisters – quilt by Dan Willig So, as I introduced in my first post this week, I’m trying to add some depth and variety to my first series of entries from six months ago on the ballad known as Child 10, “Two Sisters”, “Wind and Rain”, etc.  You can find … → read more

Two Soldiers

The Veteran in a New Field – Winslow Homer, 1865 I mentioned in my last week of posts that I’m preparing to take my 8th grade students to Gettysburg, and that all things Civil War occupy my mind this time of year.  The trip is quite an undertaking and I’m … → read more

Cut down a man in cold blood…

“None recover, they are just replaced.”  – Robert Hunter, 1995 Note: This is Part 3 of a three part series.  See also Part 1 and Part 2. Introduction At the free concert at Altamont Speedway on December 6, 1969, an eighteen year old man pulled a gun in a scuffle with a member of … → read more

Jack Straw

Note: this is Part 1 of a three part series.  See also Part 2, and Part 3. Introduction “We can share the women, we can share the wine. We can share what we got of yours, ‘cos we done shared all of mine.” So begins the Grateful Dead’s signature murder … → read more

Bow and Balance to Me

Ok, let’s bring this one on home. In the introductory post for the week, we learned that Child 10, the ballad commonly known as “Two Sisters“, is in fact quite old, with Scandinavian roots stretching back perhaps a thousand years.  We saw great diversity among the versions we listened to, … → 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

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