Photo by Devin Pedde
A lot of the folk songs that make up the Americana songbook are downright creepy. Ghosts and murders figure prominently, but you have to listen closely since the lyrics are usually matched to jaunty melodies. Nickel Creek singer Sean Watkins had that revelation after hearing “Banks Of The Ohio” again years after first discovering it at bluegrass festivals he attended as a kid. “One day, I looked it up and read the words and it was shocking,” Watkins recently told Rolling Stone. “It’s a good example of how a lot of these old bluegrass songs can be so violent.”
Watkins decided to cover the 19th century murder ballad after meeting Fiona Apple–no stranger to mixing intense words with sweet sounds. The two started performing together at L.A.’s Largo, first playing jazz standards before moving to bluegrass songs that Watkins grew up singing. Watkins is releasing a 7″ single, featuring Apple on “Banks Of The Ohio” and a cover of the Rolling Stone’s “Dead Flowers” with Old Crow Medicine Show’s Willie Watson. We’re offering the former as today’s song of the day, and catch Watkins this Thursday at the Cactus Cafe. Take a listen to “Banks Of The Ohio” and download it below.