“Poor Mary” (A Murder Ballad): Free Music for Downloading!

One of the activities that’s given me the most pleasure in the past couple of years is creating music.

When words no longer suffice, I click on Garageband and commence work on some atmospheric, ambient melange, usually employing at least a dozen tracks before I’m satisfied the result is sufficiently whacked out and spacey.  I’ve posted the best stuff on my Audio page and you’re welcome to listen to it, download…have at it.

A couple of years ago I got it into my head to write a murder ballad.  I was raised on Johnny Cash and Hank Snow—one of the first tunes I can remember hearing is Johnny’s spooky version of “The Long Black Veil”.

I think I had that song in the back of my head as I sat down and wrote out the words to “Poor Mary”.  The song wrote itself very quickly—I recall there were only two or three drafts.  But once I finished, it was head-scratching time.  What in the name of God was I going to do with the bloody thing now?  I can’t read or write music, can’t play an instrument.

Ah, but I’m fortunate enough to have a pal who can pick and strum and carry a tune.  So I handed the lyric sheet over to Laird Brittin and asked him if it was possible to create an actual song out of the few lines of poetry I’d composed.  He liked the lyrics and came back with an arrangement that is nothing less than stunning.  If you like “Poor Mary”, the vast majority of the credit goes to Laird, who truly found the perfect “sound” for the piece.

To give the tune a listen (it’s only three minutes and some long), click on the following link:

01 Poor Mary

This happens to be my 200th blog post and I can think of no better way of commemorating that milestone than releasing “Poor Mary”.

Special thanks to Laird for recording, arranging and mixing this version.

My appreciation, as well, to the many, many folks who still make a regular habit of stopping by this blog and checking out my take on “the writing life”.  It ain’t a particularly rewarding or empowering existence/vocation, but I’ve never regretted my decision to go the “indie” route.

It takes its toll but if this approach allows me to fully express myself as an artist, as someone with a unique perspective on the multiverse, I’ll accept the consequences, come what may.

And, hey, if I get to occasionally turn my hand to songwriting, come up with something as fun and enjoyable (and good) as “Poor Mary”, then all I can say is fucking bring it on.

“Poor Mary”  © Copyright, 2010 by Laird Brittin & Cliff Burns  (All Rights Reserved)

No commercial use of this song is permitted.

3 comments

  1. Danny Podanucci

    “The laughingstock of neighbours and their never-ending scorn”? Man, your whole universe is one big Freudian slip, bro.

  2. Cliff Burns

    The lyrics read: “The laughing stock of neighbors/The never ending scorn…”

    Laird was gracious enough to cut a free version for my blog (commemorating my 200th post) and might have fluffed a line. Still a great take, though…

  3. Cliff Burns

    Poor Mary
    (Words by: C. Burns; 2010)

    I’m putting you in the ground, Mary,
    The cold, cold ground;
    I’m digging me a hole, Mary,
    And leaving this mean old town.

    Your father is a drunkard
    And your brother’s a fool–
    I took you from their angry house
    And kept you like a jewel.

    I come from the lowlands
    Where the ways are old and hard;
    Learned them from my father’s hand,
    Still bear his bitter mark.

    Won’t lose you to another,
    Wear those awful horns;
    The laughing stock of neighbors
    The never-ending scorn…

    I’m putting you in the ground, Mary,
    The cold, cold ground;
    I’m digging me a hole, Mary,
    And leaving this mean old town.

    They’ll lead me to the death house
    Hood me like a hawk–
    Steady me on a creaking plank
    Before that final drop.

    I’m putting you in the ground, Mary,
    The cold, cold ground;
    I’m digging me a hole, Mary,
    And leaving this mean old town.

    Copyright, 2010 by Cliff Burns

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