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18 genuine Victorian gallows ballads recorded by today's musicians

Well, it’s taken me over a year to do it, but I’ve now managed to persuade modern rock, folk and blues musicians to record all 16 of the genuine Victorian gallows ballads which I started researching back in 2011 (Projects previously). You’ll find a Soundcloud set compiling the whole "album" linked above, and details of the individual songs below. Each track is a collaboration across more than 100 years, as singers and bands from Britain, America and Australia add their own music to the original 19th century lyrics. Each track's Soundcloud entry has a link taking you to the true story behind that particular ballad. [more inside]
posted by Paul Slade on Jan 5, 2013 - 3 comments

"Please Tell Me Where's Her Head": Pearl Bryan in song & story

PlanetSlade's been writing about Murder Ballads for quite some time now (previously 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Now I've placed the site's first book-length offering on the Kindle store, where you'll find it at the link above. If by any chance you'd like to buy a copy, that would make me very happy. Robert Wilhelm at Murder By Gaslight called the book "very impressive", and the crime scene's local paper rated it "truly a fascinating read". British readers should go to this Amazon.co.uk page instead.
posted by Paul Slade on Aug 24, 2012 - 0 comments

Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Thang: my fRoots reviews

In July this year, I started reviewing blues CDs and similar material for fRoots, the UK's leading folk music and world music magazine. With its editor's permission, I've now posted the first four installments of this work on PlanetSlade, which covers releases by Ian Siegal, Big Head Blues Club, Pokey LaFarge, Meschiya Lake, Jack Blackman, The Lil’ Band O’ Gold and Charles Shaar Murray. More reviews will follow as my arrangement with fRoots permits.
posted by Paul Slade on Nov 1, 2011 - 0 comments

Pearl Bryan: The Full Story

You may not know the song covered in PlanetSlade’s latest Murder Ballads essay, but I guarantee you’ll never forget the story behind it. On February 1, 1896, Pearl’s decapitated body was found in a Kentucky orchard. She was pregnant, and she’d been struggling when the killer began cutting off her head. That head has never been found, but we do know that the murderer carried it round Cincinnati’s bars with him. The police investigation which followed used a crucial clue from Pearl’s shoes and America’s first bugged cell. There was a thriving souvenir trade surrounding the case and lynch mobs roamed the streets. Two men – one of them Pearl’s lover – eventually hanged for the crime, which inspired a ballad still sung (and danced) today. Read all about it at the link above.
posted by Paul Slade on Aug 23, 2011 - 0 comments

The Ballad of Nasra Ismail

Since May 2009, PlanetSlade has been bringing you the true stories behind classic murder ballads like Stagger Lee, Knoxville Girl and Hattie Carroll. The site’s latest essay details my efforts to write a fresh set of lyrics in this old tradition, describing a real 2004 murder near my home in North London. The victim was a young Somali prostitute, picked up by her killer while working the streets around King’s Cross. Her death was barely reported at the time, which is one reason I decided to try and commemorate her in song. The folk singer Pete Morton liked my first set of lyrics enough to add some music and record them for me (free download here), and Iowa’s own Scott Riley shot some YouTube footage of himself performing my second version of the song – again, with his own music. PlanetSlade previously: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
posted by Paul Slade on Jan 1, 2011 - 0 comments

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