At dinner the other night, the discussion turned to murder ballads. I talked about the great ballads where the unstated part of the plot was that a girl was pregnant, and her boyfriend decided the answer was to murder her, usually involving drowning. I named several of these songs. They all seem cautionary tales presented to daughters: This is what could happen to you. I’m going to post several here. The first two are “Omie Wise,” as performed by Doc Watson and then by Clarence Ashley. I’d have trouble stating a preference. It’s based on a real murder. Listen to both, and the guitar behind Doc Watson and the banjo behind Clarence Ashley.
Here’s the Wilbourn Brother’s doing ”Knoxville Girl,” most famously a Louvin Brother’s song.
You can hear the Louvin’s classic take on that one.
Another of these songs was “The Wind And Rain.” Here’s Gillian Welch and David Rawlings on a YouTube clip I can’t embed doing that one as a part of the songtrack to the movie SongCatcher, with the the great line “the only tune the fiddle would play was oh, the wind and rain.” Dylan turned this into “Percy’s Song.” Here, from the film “Don’t Look Back,” is Joan Baez singing that one while Dylan keeps his back to her and occasionally banging on a typewriter.