Something nasty in the woodshed
Image: Colin Blakely (cropped)
Purty Polly - John Hammond
As much as I like the many weird and wonderful ways murder ballads dramatize root anxieties (life is short, strangers are dangerous, love can kill you), the seemingly inexhaustible methods with which they execute rather elemental melodies, I prefer old recordings. With the exception of Gillian Welch's "Caleb Meyer" and some of The Handsome Family's morbid outings, I never quite warm to contemporary takes on the tradition. The older, the crustier the patina of pop-and-hiss, the more voices and instruments rattle like dry bones in a box, the better. So maybe I have some misguided notions about authenticity. But I like my murder ballads to sound like this 1927 variant on the durable "Polly" standard: ancient. John Hammond's wheezed twang isn't beautiful. But it's perfect-- strained and anxious and a little out of breath from trying to keep up with the banjo. A banjo that flows so fast and fluid it sings in sympathy to the poor girl's exsanguinating heart.
From American Primitive - Volume 2: Pre-War Revenants 1897-1939 (Amazon, eMusic)
Get your Vincent Price here: Heart on a Stick has a scary holiday mix.
Love bacon? Love bacon so much you want everything to taste like bacon?