Knoxville Girl

I’ve always felt guilty about enjoying a beautiful murder ballad called Knoxville Girl. My favourite version of the song appears on the 1956 album Tragic Songs of Love by The Louvin Brothers. It features some lovely harmony singing from Charlie and Ira Louvin and skips along nicely in waltz time. The tale is narrated by a young man named Willie who goes for a stroll with the titular Knoxville Girl every Sunday afternoon. Willie’s words are calm and measured, so it’s a bit of a surprise when things take a bit of a turn at the end of the first verse. All of a sudden, Willie grabs a stick and starts beating his girl. Despite her pleas for him to stop, he continues to hit her and then grabs her by the hair and throws her into the river. Willie returns to his home and placates his mother’s concerns about his bloody clothes by putting it down to a nosebleed. After a restless night’s sleep, Willie is arrested and imprisoned. The song finishes with his regretful admission that he killed the girl because he loved her. The song started out a few decades earlier as an Appalachian murder ballad, though its origins lie in Britain and Ireland where it was variously known as the Wexford Girl and the Oxford Girl. The influence of the late Louvin Brothers lives on in versions of the song by Elvis Costello, Nick Cave and The Handsome Family. Ira Louvin came to a tragic end in 1965, but his brother made it to the age of 83 when he passed away this January

Knoxville Girl – The Louvin Brothers

30 Day Song Challenge Archive