The Murder Ballad is an old form of folk song, part folk tale, part true crime, part triumph (of mortal justice), part tragedy (of the death of an innocent). In them, a beautiful innocent is brutally murdered and the culprit is brought to justice and hanged (if male) or burned (if female). That said, the majority of the real popular and long lived ones are about the deaths of women like The Knoxville Girl, Pretty Polly, Little Sadie, and Darlin’ Cory, who are all mentioned in Jim Lauderdale‘s “Old Time Angels.” In his song, however, instead of recounting their pitiful deaths and the story of their killers, he paints the rest of the tale: when these wronged girls rise from the grave seeking vengeance on anyone who would make another “serve,” using the very implements their killers employed to kill and bury them.
…I just thought you guys might be interested in that sort of thing. For more on the song and the Murder Ballad genre, you can listen to the All Things Considered segment on “Old Time Angels.”