Why on earth did I ever let him go?

Mary Magdalene in the Grotto, by Jules-Joseph Lefebvre The Ballad of Mary Magdalene This one is perhaps the biggest stretch, but as you may have noticed before, I’m interested in how artists tell stories around a central, more well-known story.  Richard Shindell’s brilliant “Ballad of Mary Magdalen” is just such … → read more

They would lay Jesus Christ in his grave

Woody Guthrie Working Class Hero Less graphically than “On a Hill Lone and Gray,” Woody Guthrie provides his own rendering of the Jesus story.  In this one, the multitude is still implicated, but in a slightly different way; and, the Jesus depicted is decidedly human, a working man of the … → read more

“On a Hill Lone and Gray”: Jesus and the murder ballad, pt. 1

Golgotha Jesus and the Murder Ballad This week we’re going to take a small detour from the traditional murder ballad. Shaleane’s post on Nick Cave’s “The Mercy Seat” prompted me to consider just how frequently and in what guises Jesus figures appear in these songs.  Themes of guilt, atonement, and salvation … → 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

A Bower in Bucklesfordbury

Barnard Castle – William Turner, 1825 Note: This is Part 2 of a three part series.  See also Part 1 and Part 3. Introduction It is clear that psychological themes in this week’s subject, “Matty Groves”, strike the most resonant chords for us today, and probably always have even for people who … → read more

Matty Groves / Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard

This is Part 1 of a three part series.  See also Part 2, and Part 3. Introduction – “Twas on the high, high holy day…” 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

all things move toward their end

The thing I like about traditional murder ballads is that there doesn’t have to be any motive for the murder. There’s just these two people and he takes her down to the river and he kills her and he throws her in the river and that’s it. They’ve ended up … → read more

The 21st Annual ARSC award recipients announced

The recipients of the Awards for excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research of the twenty-first annual ARSC (Association for Recorded Sound Collections) award ceremony have been announced.  Recipients for works in History  include Lightnin’ Hopkins: His Life and Blues, by Alan Govenar (A Capella Press)  in Recorded blues, Rhythm & … → read more

The slayer who ran looked a lot like me

In this interview mentioned in the last post, Nick Cave explained how his musical inclinations were forever changed when – as young boy in a small town in Australia – he started watching the Johnny Cash Show. The first episode of the show aired on June 17, 1969 (Cave would have been about twelve) … → read more