This year's Murder Ballad Ball is fraught with thieves, gunslingers, lovers, and a hearty helping of the dish best served cold: revenge. The musicians of Killa City are raising money for their uninsured brethren with songs of blood, retribution and death at Polly's Revenge: The Murder Ballad Ball of 2010. Curated by Dutch Humphrey and Kris Bruders, the event's second incarnation involves 20 veteran and newcomer acts, including rockabilly, roots, alt country, and blues, to benefit the Midwest Music Foundation for the Musicians Emergency Health Care Fund. The Pitch caught up with three of the performing bands' frontmen about their macabre interpretations of murder ballads.
Patrick Deveny of the Silver Maggies: "One of our songs is about the killing of skier Spider Sabich by his girlfriend, the French singer Claudine Longet. Also, there is a cowboy killer-type character that keeps coming up in my songs. We'll be performing two of them: 'It All Went South' and 'My Pale Horse.'"
Jody Hendrix of Them Damned Young Livers: "We have a song off our first album called 'Stranger Danger,' inspired by Dwight Yoakam's 'She Wears Red Dresses' from Buenos Noches From a Lonely Room. It tells the story of how this woman cheated on him in a cheap motel room with an unknown man. The writer tracks them down and kills them. I was listening to Dwight's version a lot, and I suspected an ex of fooling around on me while she was on a business trip. I have retold the story and added in some details, ultimately ending in the cheater and the man dead in the motel room."
Bill Sundahl of the Columns: "As a three-piece, the Columns will perform a stripped-down, dirty version of "The Plank" by the Devil Makes Three. It's a bluegrass tune about sending someone to a watery grave. We'll also cover "Run for Your Life" by the Beatles. We're giving it a touch of swing and keeping it a happy-sounding ditty of testosterone-induced jealousy. Finally, we'll back up Howard Iceberg on his country ballad "Dark Flowers," the tale of Bad Boy Roy, who throttles his new girl to death in Blue Velvet Lake."
In true funereal style, the eight-hour fundraiser is also a winter formal. Mourners of Pretty Polly are invited to don their finest wool coats, string ties or petticoats. It'll bring a little warmth to an evening of cold blood, whiskey and song.