Between podcasts, best-selling nonfiction books and an endless stream of Netflix documentaries, it seems that people just can't get enough of the true crime genre. So it should come as no surprise that an interest in the macabre isn't exactly new. And in the case of the murder ballad, it's centuries old.
Murder ballads are, quite simply, ballads that recount the story of a murder — either real or fictionalized — and the history of the genre far pre-dates Johnny Cash singing a tale of shooting a man in Reno "just to watch him die." While this is by no means a comprehensive list, we decided to round up some of the creepiest country murder ballads just in time for Halloween.
Here are the top 10 creepiest country murder ballads.
10. "White River," Kaitlin Butts
Kaitlin Butts captivates every audience when she sings this song live. Not only are her vocals out of the world, the storyline is so well put together that the listener can't turn their head in fear they'll miss something.
9. "Kate McCannon," Colter Wall
"Kate McCannon" is a gem of a traditional murder ballad. It involves the holler, love, cheating, and death: everything a classic murder ballad requires. Wall's storytelling abilities keep your ears tuned into his deep, dark vocals and your mind enraptured with what's going to happen next. Spine-chilling.
8. "Long Black Veil," Lefty Frizzell
A song that was an instant folk music classic, "Long Black Veil" tells the story of a man who is hanged for a crime he didn't commit. He couldn't give his alibi because he was in the arms of his best friend's wife the night of the murder.
7. "Knoxville Girl," The Louvin Brothers
The genre of bluegrass is the home of many ballads. However, The Louvin Brothers have earned their spot on this list with their murder ballad "Knoxville Girl." The song goes into very specific (and devastating) details of how the Knoxville girl was murdered.
6. "Goodbye Earl," The Chicks
The Chicks' classic "Goodbye Earl" centers on Mary Ann and Wanda, two best friends who murder Wanda's abusive husband, wrap him in a tarp, drag him to the creek, and never get caught for their crime. That's a murder ballad if I've ever heard one!
5. "L.A. County," Lyle Lovett
In Lyle Lovett's "L.A. County," a bride and groom are murdered on their wedding day. Not recommended for wedding playlists, but it does make for a creepy Halloween tale.
4. "Big Iron," Marty Robbins
An Arizona ranger wore a "big iron on his hip" and was in the town of Agua Fria to take care of some business. The outlaw Texas Red had a target on his back and the ranger was sure he could take Texas Red: dead or alive. Little did he know, Texas Red has killed every man who has hunted him.
3. "I Hung My Head," Johnny Cash
In this murder ballad by Johnny Cash, the man with the gun killed a lone rider just to practice his aim with a rifle. After the rider was murdered, the killer was filled with remorse.
2. "Red Headed Stranger," Willie Nelson
If you touch the Red Headed Stranger's bay, who used to belong to his late wife, you'll meet fate almost immediately. The haunting story of the Red Headed Stranger will live on forever as one of the greatest American murder ballads.
1. "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," Vicki Lawrence
The number one murder ballad in country music is none other than Vicki Lawrence's "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia." The storytelling behind the soul-stirring tune is impeccable. Reba McEntire famously recorded the song for her 1991 album, For My Broken Heart.
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