Oct 30, 2017

FTM's Top 10 Murder Ballads

by Robert Dean

If there’s any tradition in American roots music that’s steeped in darkness and just utterly crushing thanks to it’s macabre tonality, it’s the murder ballad. The murder ballad is defined by Wikipedia as:
“Murder ballads are a subgenre of the traditional ballad form dealing with a crime. Their lyrics form a narrative describing the events of a murder, often including the lead-up and/or aftermath. The term refers to the content, and may be applied to traditional ballads, part of oral culture. Broadsheet printed ballads do not use the same formulas or structures, and are rooted in a literate society.”

Some grim shit, but oh so delicious when you’ve had a few drinks and are angry at humankind. If you’re a fan of country, the blues, or just dark rock and roll, there’s a long tradition of the murder ballad anchoring more than one classic record.

In an attempt to keep topics nice and spooky for Halloween, I wanted to rate my top 10 favorite murder ballads. If you’re looking to bum everyone out at your Halloween party, make a playlist. You’ll be in bed by 9:15. Enjoy. *now with an expanded accompanying Spotify Playlist*

8.  The Ballad of Hollis Brown – Bob Dylan

7. Delia’s Gone – Johnny Cash

6. Hey Joe – Jimi Hendrix/Bob Dylan

5. Kate McCannon – Colter Wall

4. Ohio – Neil Young

3. Stagger Lee – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds


  1. #4 isn't a murder ballad. It's a hippie protest.

    When you throw projectiles at soldiers who are there to keep order, and refuse to disperse...well, National Guard 4, Kent State 0.

    Besides, "Crazy Eddie's Last Hurrah" is the greatest of all time.

  2. "Promises in Pieces" by Jason Eady
    "Live Oak" by Jason Isbell
    "Murder on Music Row" by George Strait and Alan Jackson

  3. Need at least one woman here - "Caleb Meyer" Gillian Welch. THough maybe thta is self defense, not murder?


  4. "Going down the river" Chris Knight.



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