- Audio CD (January 6, 2009)
- Number of Discs: 2
- Format: Import
- Label: Not Now
- ASIN: B002B8ELOU
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,373 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
American Murder Ballads
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2009 two CD collection. The road to success is paved with heartbreak, frustration, disappointment and, often times, death. Those that live to sing another day have many stories to tell and sometimes, they aren't pretty. Are these murderous tales based on true life experiences? Do they sing of atrocities that they witnessed during their travels? Are these stories even real? Nobody knows for sure, but, truth be told, it doesn't matter because these murder ballads have become a part of our rich musical tapestry. This collection contains 50 thrilling (and chilling) tales sung by the likes of The Kingston Trio, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger, Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie and many others. Not Now Music.
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The Woody Guthrie tracks on Disc One are particularly disappointing. His version of "Billy the Kid" has some lyrics I never heard in other artists' recordings of the same song, and Woody's changes are historically inaccurate enough to ruin the experience. The second Guthrie song on this half of the album, "Slipknot" is just not all that good, as poetry or as performance. Pete Seeger does a competent job on the traditional "Jesse James" and thank the Lord he does not offer the terrible version composed by his friend Leadbelly, available on a different compilation on the market.
On Disc Two, it is hard to match the excellence of Cisco's opening track, "The Killer." While not the best long folk ballad ever written, it is indeed one of his finest singing jobs, and he had many in his career. (I think "East Texas Red" by Woody to be a better song, and Cisco's version of that one, sadly, is not included here.)
Woody is better represented on this disc, with his two-part "Tom Joad" although it is not primarily a murder ballad, but a clever condensation of the Steinbeck novel "The Grapes of Wrath." Jack Elliott and Johnny Cash also do good songs well on this half. The rest of the disc is much like the first one: traditional folk and country songs with death taking center stage, performed more or less well by more or less second-ranked artists. I have always had a special interest in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case because I grew up within ten miles of that crime scene, but "The Trial of Bruno Hauptman" which I have always wanted to hear, turns out to be not good enough to live past the event it describes.
If you like music in this style, and do not own as much of it as I do, and can afford the asking price, you might be happy you purchased this. Just be warned: there are a lot of mountain-style sad songs here by lesser performers than the Carter Family and recorded in the 20's and 30's...definitely a minority taste item, this.