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New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster

Rain Dog 13 Jul 07 - 12:25 PM
Joe Offer 13 Jul 07 - 01:23 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Jul 07 - 01:33 PM
Mrrzy 13 Jul 07 - 01:51 PM
GUEST,Allan S. 13 Jul 07 - 02:08 PM
karen k 13 Jul 07 - 08:24 PM
Bee 13 Jul 07 - 08:45 PM
Joe Offer 14 Jul 07 - 04:44 AM
Susan of DT 14 Jul 07 - 08:19 AM
SINSULL 14 Jul 07 - 11:57 AM
Fred McCormick 14 Jul 07 - 01:42 PM
Artful Codger 14 Jul 07 - 01:59 PM
Fred McCormick 14 Jul 07 - 02:08 PM
dick greenhaus 15 Jul 07 - 09:12 PM
Rain Dog 19 Sep 07 - 02:03 PM
Big Al Whittle 19 Sep 07 - 05:05 PM
Beer 19 Sep 07 - 05:08 PM
Big Al Whittle 19 Sep 07 - 05:33 PM
Joe Offer 19 Sep 07 - 05:39 PM
dick greenhaus 19 Sep 07 - 05:43 PM
Big Al Whittle 19 Sep 07 - 05:46 PM
dick greenhaus 17 Oct 07 - 07:46 PM
GUEST,Mike in DC 06 Dec 07 - 02:25 PM
GUEST,Mike in DC 06 Dec 07 - 02:29 PM
ranger1 06 Dec 07 - 02:37 PM
ranger1 06 Dec 07 - 02:38 PM
GUEST,Mike in DC 06 Dec 07 - 02:56 PM
catspaw49 06 Dec 07 - 03:02 PM
fretless 06 Dec 07 - 04:29 PM
Joe Offer 06 Dec 07 - 05:01 PM
Desert Dancer 27 Oct 10 - 04:13 PM
GUEST 05 Nov 10 - 07:02 PM
kmbraun 22 Nov 10 - 05:25 PM
GUEST,Paul Slade 23 Nov 10 - 09:16 AM
Desert Dancer 23 Nov 10 - 12:14 PM
Desert Dancer 23 Nov 10 - 01:53 PM
RWilhelm 23 Nov 10 - 05:32 PM
Desert Dancer 23 Nov 10 - 05:39 PM
Rain Dog 01 Dec 10 - 12:14 PM
Desert Dancer 01 Dec 10 - 01:13 PM
GUEST,clumper 01 Dec 10 - 01:25 PM
GUEST,Emily Lacy 09 Dec 10 - 10:33 PM
GUEST,Patsy 10 Dec 10 - 03:21 AM
Desert Dancer 17 May 11 - 11:06 PM
GUEST,Sally Burnell 11 Oct 11 - 05:03 PM
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Acme 13 Oct 11 - 12:56 AM
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Subject: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Rain Dog
Date: 13 Jul 07 - 12:25 PM

Details of a forthcoming release which might be of interest to some of you here

PEOPLE TAKE WARNING! Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster 1913-1938 Landmark 3-CD Box Set to be released September 25, 2007 on Tompkins Square

"In the late 1920's and early 1930's, the Depression gripped the Nation. It was a time when songs were tools for living. A whole community would turn out to mourn the loss of a member and to sow their songs like seeds. This collection is a wild garden grown from those seeds."
– Tom Waits, from the Introduction

Songs of death, destruction and disaster, recorded by black and white performers from the dawn of American roots recording are here, assembled together for the first time. Whether they document world-shattering events like the sinking of the Titanic or memorialize long forgotten local murders or catastrophes, these 70 recordings – over 30 never before reissued – are audio messages in a bottle reflecting a lost world where age old ballads rubbed up against songs inspired by the day's headlines.

Featuring beautifully remastered recordings by the some of the cornerstones of American vernacular recording such as Charlie Patton, Ernest Stoneman, Furry Lewis, Charlie Poole and Uncle Dave Macon, these songs tell of life and death struggles forever immortalized on these rare and compelling 78 rpms.

Produced and annotated by Grammy winning team of Christopher King and Henry "Hank" Sapoznik with an introduction by Tom Waits, the accompanying 48-page three-CD anthology designed by Grammy award winning Susan Archie brims with many eye-popping historic images never before reproduced.

People Take Warning! Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster 1913-1938
TSQ 1875 Release Date: September 25th, 2007
Tompkins Square is distributed in North America by Fontana Distribution
www.tompkinssquare.com
www.peopletakewarning.com


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaste
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Jul 07 - 01:23 PM

I have to admit that my first reaction was, "Oh, this sounds like fun!" Maybe I need some sort of re-education for thinking of disasters and murders as fun, but I think that disaster and murder songs are among the most colorful and interesting songs we have. It sounds like this box set will be a real treat.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Jul 07 - 01:33 PM

The tracks available for listening at the people take warning site linked above have sold me.


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Mrrzy
Date: 13 Jul 07 - 01:51 PM

Sounds great! I really pretty much sing only murder ballads - well, I sing ballads, and most of them seem to be about some death or other. Thanks for the info!


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: GUEST,Allan S.
Date: 13 Jul 07 - 02:08 PM

I have to get this one... There is nothing like a good murder ballad
Death and disaster...


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: karen k
Date: 13 Jul 07 - 08:24 PM

This sounds great. Can't wait to get these songs on my iPod. Thanks for the heads up.


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Bee
Date: 13 Jul 07 - 08:45 PM

I want it. Looking at my small but rapidly growing repertoire, I've considered categorizing them by manner of dispatch: lesseee...drowned, stabbed, stabbed, shot, drowned, hanged, stabbed, stabbed again, drowned....


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaste
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 Jul 07 - 04:44 AM

I think I've seen a database that categorizes the deaths in the Child Ballads, but to do a murder ballad index might well fill up a whole forum the size of Mudcat. There are so many murder ballads from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
I know of only one book on the subject, American Murder Ballads and their stories, by Olive Wooley Burt, Oxford University Press, 1958. I'm sure you can find lots of murder songs at the American Memory Collection and the Levy Sheet Music Collection. The Roud Index lists 51 songs about murder. You'll also find a lot at the Traditional Ballad Index. Lots here in the Digital Tradition, too.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaste
From: Susan of DT
Date: 14 Jul 07 - 08:19 AM

Laws category F are murder ballads. There is at least one example of each Laws song in the Digital Tradition. I counted 45 Laws F songs in the DT (multiple versions of several of them).

The keyword @murder has 220 songs in the DT.


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: SINSULL
Date: 14 Jul 07 - 11:57 AM

The samples on the website are great. Will CAMSCO have this at the Getaway?


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 14 Jul 07 - 01:42 PM

Joe Offer: "I know of only one book on the subject, American Murder Ballads and their stories, by Olive Wooley Burt, Oxford University

Alos check Bloody Versicles: Rhymes of Crime by Jonathan Goodman. Can't put my hand on it at the moment, but I know it to be much more wide ranging (geographically) than the Burt.

Also, Rose and the Briar, Sean Wilentz and Greil Marcus, eds, is a collection of writings on American balladry. Again,the subject area is not confined to murder/disaster ballads.

Also, Scalded to Death by the Steam by Katie Letcher Lyle; a collection of American railroad disaster ballads, accompanied by historical accounts, photographs, maps etc. I've always been a bit put off it by the fact that Mike Harding, who wrote the foreword, thought Ewan MacColl sang a song called "Moses of the Male".

And of course there's Norman Cohen's Long Steel Rail which is an exhaustive discussion of railroad ballads irrespective of their subjet matter. There's still a lot in there about train wrecks though.


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaste
From: Artful Codger
Date: 14 Jul 07 - 01:59 PM

The Library of Congress issued a recording of songs primarily about the assassination of presidents.


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 14 Jul 07 - 02:08 PM

"Songs and Ballads of American History and of the Assassination of Presidents". Originally issued as Library of Congress AAFS L29. Now reissued as Rounder CD 1509


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaste
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 15 Jul 07 - 09:12 PM

Sinsull-
If the publisher will sell it to me wholesale, CAMSCO will carry it.


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Rain Dog
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 02:03 PM

Just a refresh as the set is due out on the 25th September


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 05:05 PM

how come they always leave my song George Joseph Smith out of these collections?

http://bigalwhittle.co.uk/id22.html


I feel discriminated against.


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Beer
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 05:08 PM

Great stuff Rain Dog.
Beer (adrien)


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 05:33 PM

well i can't understand it. a work of genius in my opinion. you'll all be sorry when I get the Nobel prize for my contribution to western culture - reinvigorating The Murder Ballad.


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 05:39 PM

$51.98 at Amazon. A little pricey. Maybe CAMSCO will beat them.
Dick?
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaste
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 05:43 PM

I'm waiting to hear from the publisher. I'll post CAMSCO's price when I find out how much the set costs me.


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 05:46 PM

Good god! nearly 52 bucks and they leave out George Joseph Smith!

These are godless times, Joe! Take my word Joe, the Lord will rebuke us for such wickednedness and avarice. As Long John Silver once said, Smart as paint, little matey!

What a good job, you can get George Joseph Smith as a free download!


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaste
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Oct 07 - 07:46 PM

Just got some in. $43.50 (+ actual postage+$.50)It's a compilation of Murder Ballads and Disaster songs recorded between 1913 and 1938, produced by Christopher King and Henry Sapoznik, and comes with a 52-page booklet with notes, excellent photos, but only partial lyrics (damn!). Remastering is quite good; I found that the format (short and wide. the size of two jewel cases laid side by side) somewhat awkward to fit on a shelf. $43.50 (+S&H) from CAMSCO (List $51.98)
A very nice compilation, IMO

The Tracklists for the three CDs are:

Disc: 1
    1. Titanic Blues Hi Henry Brown & Charlie Jordan
    2. Wreck Of the Old 97 Skillet Lickers
    3. Bill Wilson Birmingham Jug Band
    4. The Crash Of the Akron Bob Miller
    5. The Fate of Talmadge Osborne Ernest Stoneman
    6. El Mole Rachmim (Für Titanik) Cantor Joseph Rosenblatt
    7. The Wreck Of the Virginian Alfred Reed
    8. Fate of Will Rogers & Wiley Post Bill Cox
    9. Down With The Old Canoe Dixon Brothers
    10. Wreck Of Number 52 Cliff Carlisle
    11. Kassie Jones Part 1 Furry Lewis
    12. Kassie Jones Part 2 Furry Lewis
    13. The Brave Engineer Carver Boys
    14. The Sinking Of The Titanic Richard "Rabbit" Brown
    15. Fate Of Chris Lively And Wife Blind Alfred Reed
    16. Wreck On The Mountain Road Red Fox Chasers
    17. The Unfortunate Brakeman Kentucky Ramblers
    18. Altoona Freight Wreck Riley Puckett
    19. The Fatal Wreck Of The Bus Mainer's Mountaineers
    20. Last Scene Of the Titanic Frank Hutchison
    21. Casey Jones Skillet Lickers
    22. The Wreck Of The Westbound Airliner Fred Pendleton
    23. The Titanic Ernest Stoneman
    24. When That Great Ship Went Down William & Versey Smith
Disc: 2
    1. The Story of the Mighty Mississippi Ernest Stoneman
    2. Mississippi Heavy Water Blues Robert Hicks
    3. Dixie Boll Weevil Fiddlin' John Carson
    4. Mississippi Boweavil Charlie Patton
    5. Ohio Prison Fire Bob Miller
    6. Memphis Flu Elder Curry
    7. Explosion in the Fairmount Mine Blind Alfred Reed
    8. Storm That Struck Miami Fiddlin' John Carson
    9. When the Levee Breaks Kansas Joe & Memphis Minnie
    10. Alabama Flood Andrew Jenkins
    11. Burning of the Cleveland School J. H. Howell's Carolina Hillbillies
    12. High Water Everywhere, Part 1 Charlie Patton
    13. High Water Everywhere, Part 2 Charlie Patton
    14. Ryecove Cyclone Martin & Roberts
    15. McBeth Mine Explosion Cap, Andy & Flip
    16. Dry Well Blues Charlie Patton
    17. Baltimore Fire Charlie Poole
    18. Tennessee Tornado Uncle Dave Macon
    19. Dry Spell Blues, Part 2 Son House
    20. The Santa Barbara Earthquake Green Bailey
    21. The Death of Floyd Collins Vernon Dalhart
    22. The Porto Rico Storm Carson Robison Trio
    23. Boll Weavil W. A. Lindsey & Alvin Condor
    24. The Flood of 1927 Elders McIntorsh & Edwards
Disc: 3
    1. Peddler And His Wife Hayes Shepherd
    2. The Little Grave in Georgia Earl Johnson
    3. Kenney Wagner's Surrender Ernest Stoneman
    4. Henry Clay Beattie Kelly Harrell
    5. The Murder Of the Lawson Family Carolina Buddies
    6. Naomi Wise Clarence Ashley
    7. Railroad Bill Will Bennett
    8. Frankie Dykes Magic City Trio
    9. Trial of Richard Bruno Hauptmann, Part 1 Bill Cox
    10. Trial of Richard Bruno Hauptmann, Part 2 Bill Cox
    11. Lanse Des Belaires Dennis McGee & Ernest Fruge
    12. Darling Cora B.F. Shelton
    13. Billy Lyons and Stack O' Lee Furry Lewis
    14. Tom Dooley Grayson and Whitter
    15. The Story of Freda Bolt Floyd County Ramblers
    16. Pretty Polly John Hammond
    17. Fingerprints Upon the Windowpane Bob Miller
    18. The Bluefield Murder Roy Harvey & The North Carolina Ramblers
    19. Frankie Silvers Ashley & Foster
    20. Fate of Rhoda Sweeten Wilmer Watts
    21. Dupree Blues Willie Walker
    22. Poor Ellen Smith Dykes Magic City Trio

    Threads combined. Messages below are from a new thread.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: Disaster Songs
From: GUEST,Mike in DC
Date: 06 Dec 07 - 02:25 PM

There's an interesting article in today's (Dec. 6, 2007) Washington Post about a CD box set of disaster songs from Appalachia. I've made an attempt at a blue clicky but, since the url goes on forever, I'll provide some manual guidance as well.

From the washingtonpost.com home page, click on Arts and Living. The story is headlined Singing the Alarm. Alternatively, you can run your mouse over Arts and Living and then click on Style.

Mike

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/05/AR2007120502889.html


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Subject: RE: Disaster Songs
From: GUEST,Mike in DC
Date: 06 Dec 07 - 02:29 PM

My attempt at a blue clicky seems to have been an abysmal failure, so perhaps someone more adept than I in this area can follow my manual guidance and put the link up for posterity. Thanks.

Mike
    You missed the "a" in <a href=...>
    I fixed it.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Disaster Songs
From: ranger1
Date: 06 Dec 07 - 02:37 PM

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/05/AR2007120502889.html>Here ya go


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Subject: RE: Disaster Songs
From: ranger1
Date: 06 Dec 07 - 02:38 PM

OK, it doesn't look pretty, but it does work.


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Subject: RE: Disaster Songs
From: GUEST,Mike in DC
Date: 06 Dec 07 - 02:56 PM

Thanks Ranger.


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Subject: RE: Disaster Songs
From: catspaw49
Date: 06 Dec 07 - 03:02 PM

Interesting article.........I just posted to one of those type song threads, "Wreck of the Shenandoah," recorded by Vernon Dalhart about the 1925 crash of the 680 foot dirigible U.S.S. Shenandoah in Appalachian foothills of Noble County, Ohio.

I think we all kinda' love a good disaster song for whatever reason and researching them against the actual event is often entertaining and even humorous. Many authors have taken FAR MORE than artistic license and then as it passes down it can bear almost no rememblance to the truth. I like our "Origins" style threads that we've gotten into. Something extra with the lyrics!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Disaster Songs
From: fretless
Date: 06 Dec 07 - 04:29 PM

Amazon has it on sale for under $50. The samples are worth a listen.


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Subject: RE: Disaster Songs
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Dec 07 - 05:01 PM

Links have a nasty habit of disappearing, so it's good to post both the text and a link if it's an article about music

Singing the Alarm

Historic Tunes In the Key Of Misery

By Eddie Dean
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, December 6, 2007; C01



When Chris King was growing up, he often gave tours of his father's record room, a mini-museum crammed with music boxes and Victrolas that Les King collected as a traveling music teacher in the Allegheny Highlands around Bath County, Va. What most fascinated the youngster wasn't the quaint, nostalgic bric-a-brac of a bygone era, but the frighteningly real and unsettling music that crackled from the grooves of the old shellac records, songs of death and destruction that chronicled events from nearly a century before.

Rendered in unflinching detail by grim-voiced singers from the '20s and '30s, there were train wrecks and coal mine explosions and schoolhouse fires with screaming children trapped inside. Cars and trucks and buses careering off mountain roads. Farmers killing their families and themselves. Young men offing their pregnant girlfriends. Cyclones, earthquakes and floods; droughts, dust bowls and plagues of boll weevils wiping out crops.

A lot of this mayhem had occurred not in some far-off place but right in King's back yard. The first record his father gave him, the Skillet Lickers' "Wreck of the Old Southern 97," described a derailment that occurred down the road in Danville, when a mail train jumped the track into a ravine, killing nine on board including the engineer: "He was found in the wreck with his hand upon the throttle and scalded to death by the steam." Blind Alfred Reed's "Wreck of the Virginian" detailed another fiery train accident just a few miles across the state line in West Virginia, not far from the coal mine disaster commemorated in Reed's "Explosion in the Fairmount Mine," the deadliest in U.S. history, killing 362 men and boys. Add some ballads brimming with bloody murders that happened a few mountain ranges over and it's enough to make quite an impression on a boy.

"When you're exposed to so much of this stuff so young, you start to wonder, 'Was this really all that ever happened around here before I was born?' " says King, 35, a producer and audio restorer who now lives in the small town of Faber an hour from his childhood home. "People getting murdered, drowned, burned, swept up in hurricanes and scalded to death in train wrecks? How did my parents survive all this? It gives you a very macabre outlook on life."

That macabre vision has found full flower in a new three-CD set compiled by King, "People Take Warning! Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs, 1913-1938," issued by Tompkins Square Records (and available at tompkinssquare.com). Featuring 70 tracks, most from King's own record collection, presented in a lavishly illustrated hard-bound book, the set offers an aural and pictorial portrait of America before and during the Depression.

"If you mention murder ballads or disaster songs, most people think of some sort of folk-revival group like the Kingston Trio singing 'Tom Dooley,' clean-cut guys with big grins in matching green-striped shirts," he says. "That's not what it's really all about. This is dark stuff, a crucial part of American history, and I wanted to give it the presentation it deserved."

Toward that end King assembled lyric fragments, postcards and letters, news clippings, panoramic vistas of charred cityscapes and sprawling wreckage sites; photos of corpses and coffins scanned from survivors' scrapbooks; odd bits of ephemera such as a copy of the air-brake certificate of doomed locomotive engineer Casey Jones -- and, of course, an array of vintage recordings, from hillbilly and blues to pop songs. There's a Cajun murder ballad and a Hebrew prayer sung for the dead of the Titanic.

The result is a disturbing cultural artifact in the tradition of the tabloid photographer Weegee's crime scene chronicles and "Wisconsin Death Trip," Michael Lesy's 1973 compendium of grisly photos and news clippings of a murder-and-suicide epidemic that struck around the turn of the century in Black River Falls, Wis. Only this time the can't-look-away images come with a foreword by singer Tom Waits and a soundtrack with songs later covered by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, the Clash and the White Stripes.

Waits says he was sold on the project by the bulk and quality of the material King managed to salvage, ranking it with the "archaeological digs" of legendary folklorist and compiler Alan Lomax: "Chris has found buried treasures and gathered enough disaster songs here to sink a battleship."

In its aim and scope, and most of all in its obsessive focus on primal forces beyond our control, "People Take Warning!" is gunning for an audience far beyond the old-time music crowd. King wants to make converts from his own generation and to make a case that death is not the sole dominion of goth rockers, death-metal heads and graphic-novel enthusiasts. The hipsters at Pitchfork.com have been won over, and the New Yorker has given the collection a spot on its list of 2007's best box sets.

"The whole idea of what Chris has done is really compelling," says Marshall Wyatt of Old Hat Records, a reissue label based in North Carolina. "Let's face it: People just love a tale of woe, and here's an entire project devoted to it."

Wyatt's 2005 compilation "Good for What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows 1926-1937" was championed in rock and hip-hop periodicals alike. The raw, death-rattle sounds of "People Take Warning!" may have similar appeal to those raised on disaster-relief celebrity singalongs that ignore the nasty details of the disasters themselves.

"This compilation harkens back to an era when, instead of cable TV, where it's just mindless babbling about news events, there were these beautifully crafted three-minute nuggets that told a story and did it quite brilliantly," Wyatt adds. "Some have pointed out that these records were done very quickly and crudely, but to my ear, there's a lot of passion and artistry in these songs."

Topical songs about tragic events were part of a record-industry trend that took off commercially in 1925 with crooner Vernon Dalhart's "Death of Floyd Collins," about a man trapped in a Kentucky cave. It was a million seller and opened the floodgates for songs ripped from the headlines.

The most lucrative market for these lurid "emotional obits," as Waits calls them, were for rural Southerners hungry for every scrap of news of local disasters. The trend reached its peak just as the Depression hit, adding to the human-misery toll and providing ever more fodder for the phonograph makers and sheet music publishers.

The 78-rpm record, which allowed for only a few minutes per side, forced songwriters and performers to craft concise, journalistic storylines. Before the advent of round-the-clock media saturation, these records brought the news of "true happenings" with an unrivaled, you-are-there immediacy and drama. Out of the centuries-old tradition of British broadsides, the rambling ballad form was now boiled down into a distinctly American pulp: brief, violent and moralistic to the core.

"Ryecove Cyclone," from 1932, is typical in its blend of blunt reportage and sentimentality. The song commemorates a cyclone that pulverized a rural schoolhouse in southwest Virginia, killing two dozen children. The singers tell the story "in sadness and tear-dimmed eyes" even as they describe kinfolk scouring the rubble for loved ones:

There were mothers so dear and fathers the same

That came to this horrible scene

Searching and crying, each found their own child

Lying on a pillow of stone.

No locale was too obscure or remote to get its own song. "A whole community would turn out to mourn the loss of a member and to sow their songs like seeds," Waits writes in his foreword. "Songs that are roadside graves dug quickly with crosses made from kindling while the grief was still fresh."

The need for communal catharsis was exploited to the hilt by record companies. After a fire set by inmates killed 322 prisoners at the Ohio State Penitentiary in 1930, four versions of "Ohio Prison Fire" were released within a month of the event. Bob Miller's version, recorded three days after the blaze, features a weeping violin and sobbing mother who identifies the burned body of her son.

The rage for disaster songs gave free license to performers who needed only a guitar and some gumption to become self-appointed correspondents. The great Mississippi flood of 1927, which rivaled Hurricane Katrina in its destructive force, unleashed a tidal wave of topical songs, like that of bluesman Robert Hicks, who gave listeners a riveting account in "Mississippi Heavy Water Blues." Slogging through the devastation, "mud all in my shoes," Hicks grieves the loss of his house and his gal. Then he offers a breaking-news alert capped by a shout-out to himself lest anyone doubt who's on the scene:

Listen here you men, one thing I'd like to say --

Ain't no womens out here, they all got washed away.

Lord, Lord, Mississippi shaking, Louisiana sinking,

The whole town's a-ranking [stinking], Robert Hicks is singing.

It's one of the set's most powerful performances, albeit with a major shortcoming: The Georgia musician, who also recorded as Barbecue Bob, never visited the blighted region, making him a sort of Jayson Blair of the blues.


"People Take Warning!" includes seven songs about the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, the event that looms over the entire era as the disaster of all disasters. "I couldn't tell you how many people died in the Oklahoma City bombing," King admits. "Recent events like that have no traction for me, they're not etched in my memory. But the fact that there were more than 1,500 people who died on the Titanic, that's been burned in my mind since I was a kid."

The book encasing the CDs became for King a way to send a rather morbid valentine to an era that his father re-created in the record room and that haunted his youth, the packaging itself a painstaking and heartfelt homage to the highly stylized manner in which early 20th-century Americans honored death and family: "I wanted the look of a Victorian-era scrapbook, like the ones every self-respecting family had back then, that showed the generations that have passed away."

One of the more striking examples is a portrait of the Lawson family. It was taken by the town photographer of Lawsonville, N.C., two weeks before Charlie Lawson, a local farmer, killed his wife and eight children, then carefully closed their eyes and arranged their bodies with a stone under each head, before shooting himself. On the same page is a photo of the coffins lined up at the grave site, where a local string band, the Carolina Buddies, would later play their ballad "Murder of the Lawson Family," a hit for Columbia Records released not long after the Christmas Day 1929 slayings.

To illustrate a fire that swept Baltimore in 1904, King dug into his own archives for a souvenir he bought at a flea market in Hillsville, Va. It's a three-fold deluxe period postcard of Charm City in smoldering ruins. The wide-angle scene of near-total destruction helps shed light on the disaster, stoked by gale winds blowing off the harbor, as described by Charlie Poole's 1929 "Baltimore Fire."

Even if most of the music on "People Take Warning!" was recorded after the Victorian era had ostensibly ended, the songs and performers were firmly in the grip of those old-fashioned mores, including the notion of God's implacable will imparted on victims. The disasters and killings are not bemoaned as accidents but accepted as the vagaries of Fate or the unerring judgment of a vengeful Creator. The set's title is echoed in several records, most vividly in Fiddlin' John Carson's "Storm That Struck Miami," about a hurricane that pummeled the Florida coast in 1926, killing more than 1,000 and leaving 38,000 homeless:

People all take warning, and don't forget to pray,

For you, too, may meet your Maker before the break of day.

For a compilation that dwells on death, it's remarkable how many of these events and characters live on today in American song. There are updated takes, including the Grateful Dead's "Casey Jones" and Led Zeppelin's overhaul of Memphis Minnie's 1929 "When the Levee Breaks," and preserved-in-amber renditions such as Ralph Stanley's "Pretty Polly," which the 80-year-old icon still performs today little changed from the centuries-old ballad he heard as a boy in the Appalachian mountains.

Reissues such as "People Take Warning!" play a key role in keeping the songs and stories from dying out. As Waits puts it, "While the song plays we believe these dry bones can live."


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 27 Oct 10 - 04:13 PM

Last night I attended a concert in Los Angeles entitled, "Murder Ballads, the Dark Side of Folk", put on by The Echo and The New Los Angeles Folk Festival. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to stay for the whole show. Things got started a little late and there were 14 different stage changes, so I left at 11pm to drive the 30 minutes home, and with 4 more sets to go, it looked like there was at least an hour or more to the finish.

The "New Los Angeles Folk Festival" organization is so new I haven't quite figured how exactly how this event was instigated and by whom, but it was an interesting event. Whoever it was collected together 14 individual performers and groups and appeared to have assigned them 24 traditional murder ballads. There was a finale of spirituals and other death-y songs not necessarily involving murder, per se. There was one Cole Porter composition, and there was one performer who presented two of his own compositions.

The organizer (Daiana Feuer is listed as editor) put together a pamphlet with nice notes on each of the traditional songs. I don't know for sure, but it seemed that at least some of the performers sought out the versions that they preferred for their songs. All but one that I heard were American versions.

Included among the performers were some from the area's old time (southern Appalachian style) music scene, who were comfortable faithfully replicating the style of groups and duos from the '20s and '30s.

Also included were some folks of a more eclectic or contemporary bent, who took inspiration from early old time or country music, and mixed in newer instruments and/or electronic manipulations. At least one performer seemed to take the text and created her own thing with a quite contemporary sound, accompanying herself on an electronic keyboard that was sometimes organ, sometimes piano, and sometimes looping a rhythm track.

In this crowd, where "folk" is a broad-minded term, these were "old songs". The word "traditional" did not appear.

The backdrop on stage was a slideshow of '20s-era vintage mugshots.

Some 100-150 people paid $10 to get in. When you have a lot of local performers, you have a lot of performers' friends... I don't know that a similar show from out-of-towners would have had the same success. The venue was "The Echo", a performance/dance space near downtown L.A. with full bar (which meant that the audience became somewhat less attentive and noisier as the evening went on). There appeared to be very few people over 45 in attendance.

The ballads and their performers:

Tom Dooley
Tommy Santee Klaws - unamplified, with guitar. I missed most of it, but it sounded good, and not the Kingston Trio version.

Jesse James
Buffalo Skinners

RT N' The 44's - This trio on washboard, guitar, and 3-string bass banjo made use of mics/sound effects that made them sound like they were using 100-year-old equipment and we were listening from the other side of the valley. Unfortunately, that meant the words word hard to catch, which spoils it for me. With a little tweaking for clarity, it would have been great. The vocalist sounded like Johnny Cash.

Miss Otis Regrets (Cole Porter)
Henry Wolfe - (relief! -- the sound is normal!) A nice straight performance with guitar.

Henry Lee
Emily Lacy and Henry Wolfe - an early country sound.

Pretty Boy Floyd
Emily Lacy - a somewhat over-stylized country sound and dragging tempo (due to her finger-picked guitar accompaniment?) that made the song lose its effectiveness. Insufficient attention to the words.

The Cruel Mother
Julia Holter and Emily Lacy - the one non-American traditional version - MacColl's, mostly. Creative play with reverb effects and whatnot. Ms. Holter took the melody, but was not entirely comfortable with the song. The attention to their arrangement distracted them from the impact of the words.

Pearl Bryan
Julia Holter - Ms. Holter was a lot more comfortable performing alone with her keyboard, doing her own quite contemporary arrangement (and tune?). Sounded great, but I still couldn't follow the story very well. Only recognized it as traditional by some of the turns of phrase.

Pretty Polly
Knoxville Girl
Banks of the Ohio

Driftwood Singers - young woman on autoharp, young man on f-hole acoustic guitar. Single mic. Very straight, 78rpm sound. I liked it. :-) They did need to learn how to use the mic though - that common problem where the harmony drowns out the melody.

Poor Ellen Smith
John Hardy
Darlin' Corey

Amanda Jo Williams, Horse Thieves, Olentangy John supergroup - They put it together well for being a compilation of performers: 5-string banjo, electric slide guitar, what I thought was baritone ukelele but was actually child-sized guitar + kick bass drum, Greek bouzouki, acoustic guitar, upright bass. The pickup on Olentangy John's banjo didn't work and the mic substitute didn't do it justice, but he threw back his head and sang out well. The other guy who sang had had too much to drink. Amanda Jo Williams does indeed sound like "June Carter on helium", and her Darlin' Corey was not a mournful version. Good though! ;-)

Poison in a Glass of Wine
Little Schoolboy (Two Brothers / Edwin)
Cold Rain and Snow

Triple Chicken Foot - This is an old-time stringband (banjo, mandolin, and guitar, here) that does a lot of vocals. Experienced performers: tight performances. They did Cold Rain and Snow with no instrumental accompaniment and sounded great.

I had to leave at this point.

The ballads that remained:
Alabama Red
Frankie and Albert
Hannah Lee
Stack O'Lee
Brady & Duncan
Rose Connelly
Wild Bill Jones


For the finale:
Dyin' Crapshoooter's Blues
St. James Infirmary
John Henry
O Mary Don't You Weep


The performers I missed:
Boyscout Jamboree (the electric group "Spindrift" in their acoustic incarnation)
Simon Stokes (apparently an underground legend since the '70s, doing two original songs)
Frank Fairfield (This young guy is a serious time-traveller - look for him on YouTube. I was sorry to miss him. He was a featured performer, last before the finale, with 4 songs.)
Vaud & the Villains ("18-20 piece 1930s, New Orleans themed stage musical show" - led the finale)

~ Becky in Long Beach


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaste
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Nov 10 - 07:02 PM

the guy who sang John Hardy with Amanda Jo Williams and John was not drunk. he doesn't drink at all. he is Alex Maslansky from the Horse Thieves. his stuff is great.


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: kmbraun
Date: 22 Nov 10 - 05:25 PM

Becky in Long Beach: Frank Fairfield (This young guy is a serious time-traveller - look for him on YouTube. I was sorry to miss him. He was a featured performer, last before the finale, with 4 songs.)

I came across Frank Fairfield looking a take "You call me a dog when I'm gone." He really is something. It is great to have a fresh new source on traditional old songs.

Anyway, I did a search here for him and found little. This made me think that I ought to at least put his name in one more message. If I were more of a 'Catter, I might have tried to start a thread on him or better yet, more of his ilk if there are any.

Thanks,

Kurt


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaste
From: GUEST,Paul Slade
Date: 23 Nov 10 - 09:16 AM

For the true stories behind Murder Ballads like Stagger Lee, Frankie & Johnny, Knoxville Girl and Hattie Carroll, plus a selection of vintage British gallows songs, please check out my site here.


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 23 Nov 10 - 12:14 PM

Kurt, it's my impression that Frank Fairfield has only just recently built some buzz outside the local L.A. scene -- got onto NPR last fall, to NYC last summer. If you google him, you'll find some good articles on him, and some non-YouTube videos (as well as YouTube). There's not lots, it's true, probably because he's a 1930s technology kind of guy.

It's interesting to learn that Alex Maslansky from the Horse Thieves was not drunk, because that's what it sounded like. But, that's the only time I've heard him...

~ Becky in Long Beach


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 23 Nov 10 - 01:53 PM

Forgot to add this: YouTube videos from the L.A. event

~ Becky in Long Beach


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: RWilhelm
Date: 23 Nov 10 - 05:32 PM

I've got the stories behind five murder ballads that are in the set and six more that are not: Murder by Gaslight


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 23 Nov 10 - 05:39 PM

Paul Slade's and RWilhelm's sites are both great.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Rain Dog
Date: 01 Dec 10 - 12:14 PM

People Take Warning ! Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs, 1913-1938
"In the late 1920's and early 1930's, the Depression gripped the Nation. It was a time when songs were tools for living. A whole community would turn out to mourn the loss of a member and to sow their songs like seeds. This collection is a wild garden grown from those seeds." - Tom Waits, from the Introduction

The Landmark Grammy Nominated Box Set is now repackaged as a beautiful 3CD digipak ! 70 powerful and tragic songs from the Golden Age of American Roots Music. Over 30 never before reissued.

Introductory Notes By TOM WAITS

One of the best selling historical sets of all-time is now available as a SPECIALLY PRICED package - most of the photos and notes intact, the same 3CD repertoire.


People Take Warning!


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 01 Dec 10 - 01:13 PM

Now $25 (or $28 for international orders) -- not sure what a "digipak" is, but that's a pretty special price for 3 cds and "most of the photos and notes".

~ Becky in Long Beach


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: GUEST,clumper
Date: 01 Dec 10 - 01:25 PM

£17.959 according to Win 7 Currency Gadget


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaste
From: GUEST,Emily Lacy
Date: 09 Dec 10 - 10:33 PM

Sorry to hear that my "over stylized country and dragging tempo" was bothersome. I love that song with all my heart and soul, when I sing it I have to fight back tears.


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: GUEST,Patsy
Date: 10 Dec 10 - 03:21 AM

Nick Cave brought out a CD with this subject matter a while back, can I still get that?


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 17 May 11 - 11:06 PM

Another album of murder ballads, featured on NPR's website:

The Allure Of The Murder Ballad: Ruth Gerson Does 'Delia's Gone'

by Ann Powers

Being a pop culture fan requires a high tolerance for pain – the pain of others, that is, and especially of women. It's a function of art to render unspeakable truths metaphorical. As a fan of crime procedurals, southern rap, opera, heck, even Harry Potter novels, I'm completely comfortable with the bodies piling up outside my soul's door every day. Yet it's hard to not sometimes dwell on the fact that so many of those bodies are female. It's a chicken-and-egg conundrum: does all that symbolic rape and mayhem make us more brutal? Does it make real-live brutality possible to bear?

Ruth Gerson is a singer-songwriter and voice teacher who believes in tackling such matters head on. Her own compositions, available on four underrated studio albums, plumb the depths of both love and violence with a clear and empathetic eye. Now Gerson has recorded a collection of murder ballads — those old songs that disseminated the news of the day, transforming gruesome crimes into the stuff of legend — as a way of noting just how deeply these narratives of oppression are embedded within our psyches.

Deceived is a beautiful record. You could listen to it while eating dinner by candlelight. Gerson keeps her powerful voice whispery and calm for these renditions, and the production, by Rick Chertoff and William Wittman, aims for sweetness and light. The effect is to cast new light on familiar songs, from old ones like "The Butcher's Boy," "Knoxville Girl" and "Banks Of The Ohio" to more recent favorites like "Delilah" and "Ode To Billie Joe" — the latter one of two stories in which women live but their children die, the victims of parental cruelty.

Gerson ends the album with a spare rendition of "Delia's Gone," the century-old murder ballad that Johnny Cash made a hit late in his career.

I asked Gerson to answer some questions about that song, her approach to it and the Deceived project in general (all her proceeds from digital downloads and hard copy sales of the album will benefit anti-domestic violence organizations; her goal is to raise $100,000 for Sanctuary For Families, The Family Violence Prevention Fund, The AVON Foundation (Speak Out!), Shalom Bayit and other organizations).

---

Full interview, one audio track, and links for the above organizations and for purchasing the album at at the NPR link above.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: GUEST,Sally Burnell
Date: 11 Oct 11 - 05:03 PM

I just discovered this box set at the library where I work and took it home and put it on my iPod. I am listening to it right now as I type, in fact. LOVE these old songs. They were the way that news got reported because a lot of them are about things that actually happened and of course, this is the pre-TV and internet age when news was often conveyed via song and story. I suspect that for many of these songs, there's a grain of truth to an actual event contained in them.

GREAT stuff. I highly recommend it if you haven't had a chance to take a listen yet. I grew up singing murder ballads so this is right up my alley!


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 12 Oct 11 - 11:31 AM

The New Los Angeles Folk Festival is doing another night of murder ballads:

It's almost Halloween, which brings The Return Of Murder Ballads to the Echoplex, a tribute to timeless songs about killers, scorned lovers, & evil doers on Thursday, October 20th.

Watch videos of this year's bands
Listen to songs by this year's bands
Watch highlights from Murder Ballads 2010

Thursday, October 20, 2011
Echoplex - 1154 Glendale Blvd
Doors open at 8pm. Be seated by 8:45pm.
Seats are first come, first served.
Tickets - $10 advance/$12 at door
Purchase tickets - [murder ballads tickets]
All ages welcome.

Hosted by The New L.A. Folk Festival, L.A. Record, & Grand Ole Echo
Murder Ballads Facebook event - MurderBalladsFacebook
---

Last year, although not every act was to my taste, it was a fun event, and I loved that there were so many young folks exploring the genre. I would go again this year if I was in town.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: New Box Set: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster
From: Acme
Date: 13 Oct 11 - 12:56 AM

I had to scan the list of people posting to see if I'd already been here. I don't know about this new boxed set, but Ed McCurdy had a great album years ago called Blood, Booze, and Bones and you can bet it was full of murder and disasters!

SRS


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