Valentine’s Day story: Dandy’s Little Girl

Tomorrow (February 5), our first work of 2014 will be published! It’s a Valentine’s Day themed novella called “Dandy’s Little Girl”:

Five years after losing his partner, Noah Coleman lets Andy Lane into his life and the life of his daughter, Emily. Emily and Andy obviously adore one another, but can Noah handle it when his feelings of friendship for Andy become something more?

For this story, I wrote Andy, who is the manager of a toy store by day and a Bluegrass musician by night. His band, the Big Biscuit Bottoms, are hired to play an “Anti-Valentine’s Day” gig at a local bar, and I had way too much fun compiling the set list. Rather than go for songs about heartbreak and betrayal, I decided to use songs dealing with the end of a romance… via murder.

What amused me most is that I found so many, I had to narrow the final list down. Not all of the songs I chose involve murder, but they are all unconventional takes on love and romance. In case anyone is intrigued, I’ve compiled a list (with videos!) below.

“Pretty Polly” is a song I’ve sneaked into two stories; it was mentioned in “Holiday Hootenanny” as well as one of the songs being played when Clint and Josh arrive at the big family Christmas Eve shindig. It’s one of my favorite folk “murder ballads”.

The first video is a more traditional take on the song featuring Patty Loveless; it’s a pretty typical version.

This second version by Vandaveer is a much different interpretation of the song; the music video is a creepy story in and of itself, and they’ve slowed the tune down a bit. I’d never seen this before searching for videos for this post, but I fell in love with it!

“Where the Wild Roses Grow” by Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue has another creepy story-video. Given Nick Cave has an entire album of murder ballads, I was tempted to throw more of his on the list, but I was trying to be as diverse as possible.

“The Banks of the Ohio” is basically about a guy who murders a woman when she refuses to marry him. The ultimate in “not taking rejection well”.

There’s no death in “Whiskey in the Jar”! But there is betrayal. The first video is a traditional version of the song, performed by the High Kings.

However, there’s also a version by Metallica! (Thin Lizzie covers it too.)

“The Long Black Veil” has both betrayal and murder, but not in the same way as the others. The narrator of the song is a man falsely accused of murder. This is a lovely, lyrical version performed by Johnny Cash and Joni Mitchell. Mick Jagger also covers it with The Chieftains, which is my favorite version.

“Single Girl” by Peter, Paul, and Mary has neither murder nor betrayal! It’s a simple, pretty song about a married woman who wishes she was a single girl again because she misses the freedoms she enjoyed.

“Gay Pirates” is a modern song by Cosmo Jarvis about — as the title suggests — a gay pirate in love with his crewmate, Sebastian. Unfortunately, the rest of the crew doesn’t take well to their shipboard romance.

And since I was on a maritime theme anyway, I couldn’t resist including “The Ballad of Pirate Jenny” from The Threepenny Opera. It’s about a woman who dreams of a ship with black sails rescuing her from her miserable life (and destroying the whole town and everyone in it in the process). The first video is a typical Broadway musical take.

But I also found this amazing version by Nina Simone, who transports the character from a flophouse in Germany to a flophouse in South Carolina.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a video for “Willie Taylor”. The version I’m familiar with is by an all-female Bluegrass group called Uncle Earl, and I love the song because it’s about a woman who finds out her lover has been cheating on her — so she walks up and shoots him right in front of his new girl, and the guy’s captain is so impressed by her spunk that he  invites her to join his crew. It’s a funny twist on the typical murder ballad trope. 😀