Pretty Polly

“He lead her over hills and valleys so deep;
He lead her over hills and valleys so deep;
At last Pretty Polly, she began to weep.“

"Pretty Polly” is an Appalachian folk murder ballad telling of a young woman lured into the woods only to be murdered and buried in a shallow grave; certain variations of the song include a man that marries Polly, but ends up murdering her after finding out she is pregnant.

The ballad is considered the musical basis for Ballad of Hollis Brown by Bob Dylan and Pastures of Plenty by Woody Guthrie. The song has also been featured in U.S version of the show House of Cards.


Fuel the Fire by Sarah Jarosz.


Farewell to traditional Appalachian folk singer and musicologist Jean Ritchie, who died yesterday [June 1, 2015] at the age of 92. She had such a beautiful voice and made such significant contributions to the collection and preservation of folk songs.

More info:

Poison & Wine
  • Poison & Wine
  • The Civil Wars
  • Barton Hollow

“Poison & Wine” - The Civil Wars

Give me harmony or give me death I always say. And by ‘always’ I mean 'never’. If I had to choose between my own existence and the pairing of these magical voices though, I believe the voices might just win. It’s fair to predict the musical creations of these two would probably grab your attention better than I ever could.

A bio on iTunes describes their music as reminiscent of 'Appalachian folk’, which probably explains why I gravitate towards their sound. The way my eyes light up with the sound of banjos and washboard-strumming is almost unnatural every time my favorite street band hits Madison during the summer months. What grabs me about this song however, is the pain that hangs throughout. It’s as if it hurts to sing each word. The conflict of emotions, the passion, the desire to persevere, the agonizing feeling that everything about a relationship is so right and so wrong at the same time, the love that could never cease to exist - this song embodies it all.

I’m getting a little too intense for my own liking.


Cahalen Morrison & Eli West. Saw them this past summer live! Amazing.


videos:: Mountain Man - honeybee


Coon Creek Girls - Pretty Polly

  • Coal Creek March
  • Pete Steele
  • Banjo Tunes and Songs

PETE STEELE - Coal Creek March

Steele annotates, before beginning Coal Creek March, about the tragic explosion in Coal Creek, Tennessee.  The explosion that inspired this song is either 1902 Fraterville Mine Disaster or the Cross Mountain Mine Disaster in 1911 or both.  Steele is most likely confused about the number of miners who died.  The “1,400” is, more likely, the population of the Coal Creek tributary area.  Reportedly 216 to 268 miners died collectively.  One account of the accident reports only three male, adult miners survived in Fraterville.  Those three had not gone to work that day.

Steele mentions he first recorded this song in 1938.  I believe I have heard this recording.  The 1938 recording is played at a quicker tempo, timed at roughly 1:28.  This recording, done in 1958, is near 1:50.  Aging may play a role in Steele’s reduced pace.  More likely the cause was, by this time, Steele was no longer playing music.  After Steele had traded his banjo for a pistol he gave up music.  Ed Kahn, who recorded this session, luckily, had a banjo with him.  Pete took the banjo and jumped into song, hardly missing a beat. 


Powerful video of Appalachian singer Corbin Hayslett. “Shut Up In the Mines of Coal Creek.”


Tonight in LA: O'Death @ The Echo

O'Death performed at a house party in my small, rural New York college town some years ago. The band formed at SUNY Purchase and probably pitied us at another SUNY without easy access to NYC for shows. This Appalachian punk/folk (American Gothic Country?) group played a cramped living room with bouncing floorboards. I don’t know what to expect from a Los Angeles crowd, but I hope we crack the Echo’s ceiling. 

Video // “Vacant Moan" 


The Everly Brothers - Down in the Willow Garden