Little Knoxville Girl

One of the darkest and most sinister murder ballads that I know is the story of The Knoxville Girl. Its format is based on British ballads The Wexford Girl (Irish) and The Oxford Girl (English). It follows the format common to many Appalachian murder ballads. The killer retells the story from a first person perspective while not revealing much of a motive and therefore leaving the listener without much sympathy for him or his actions. A few facts are revealed when listening to the lyrics closely. We are told that the killer’s name is Willie as the Knoxille Girl calls him by his first name as she begs for mercy. After the act is committed Willie is having nightmare and can’t sleep. In the Louvin Brothers version he sees the flames of hell and in Nick Cave’s telling the devil visits him, stands at the foot of his bed and points his finger at him. In the end he find himself in jail and tells us that the was in love with the girl he murdered, thus adding more confusion to his already unknown motives. Any insights into the story? Leave a comment.

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