Spoon River Murder Ballads

“At first I suspected something” Tucked in between covers of Bruce Springsteen’s “Johnny 99” and Norman Blake’s “Billy Gray” on Mark Erelli and Jeffrey Foucault’s excellent murder ballad compilation, Seven Curses, is the short, mysterious “Tom Merritt.” It is a song of suspicions, fleeting glimpses, and a final, fatal confrontation. I listened … → read more


Bonnie Raitt photo by Marina Chavez It was written on the walls and windowshades Paul Siebel Mark Erelli and Jeffrey Foucault‘s album Seven Curses leads my list of favorite murder ballad albums. It’s not terribly traditional. Oddly enough, it’s not even especially grim. Erelli and Foucault’s selections are primarily 20th century … → read more

Sonora’s Death Row

Old West saloon I’m halfway tempted to try a few stiff shots of tequila before writing this post. OK, perhaps more than halfway tempted. I haven’t yet gotten to the point of the having the first, but perhaps you’ll be able to tell if and when I do. The key … → read more

A ruthless man and a dangerous outlaw

Jeffrey Foucault and Mark Erelli This is the second post this week on Norman Blake’s “Billy Gray.”  Read the first here. Outlaw Rhetoric That I haven’t read Aristotle‘s Poetics yet is a gap in my education.  I’ll need to get right on that, as it would doubtless help me here.  I … → read more

Woody at 100 – The Philadelphia Lawyer

Woody Guthrie would have been one hundred years old this Saturday, July 14, 2012.  Certainly there will be a great deal of writing, speaking, and (as no doubt Woody would have wanted it) singing to celebrate his centennial.  That’s as it should be.  Woody is beloved world-wide, and is immensely … → read more

The thought that pulls the trigger

As I mentioned in my first post, there’s no small controversy over what, exactly, “Powderfinger” is about. Aided by the abundance of specific details in the lyrics, especially about that boat, almost all interpretations nod to Young’s political sensibilities in some way. That is, they identify the young man as … → read more