Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Country Death Song” — Violent Femmes (1984)

Come little daughter, I said to the youngest one
Put your coat on, we’ll have some fun
We’ll go out to mountains, the one to explore
Her face then lit up, I was standing by the door…

This one is disturbing as Hell.

Country Death Song, the lead-off track from Violent Femmes’s 1984 album Hallowed Ground, is a pretty devastating piece of folk nastiness. What was it that Mark Antony said in Julius Caesar, that the evil that men do lives on long after the flesh has fallen from their bones? Yeah, you’ll be haunted by this tale long after the narrator’s corpse has been found hanging from the rafters.

It’s a simple tale, simply told, and that’s what makes it so chilling. Evocative of Depression-era Dustbowl depravity, a broken man can no longer afford to feed his wife and daughters, and the weight of his despair presses so far onto his soul as to drive him to madness. The only thing he can do for his baby daughter, as it seems, is to send her to God’s eternal reward in Heaven, just a wee bit ahead of schedule.

He invites her with him to explore the nearby caverns, an opportunity that fills her with absolute delight. He reminds her to kiss her mother goodnight, grabs a lantern, takes her to a well, and tells her to close her eyes and make a wish…

Singer/guitarist/songwriter Gordon Gano brings every bit of terrifying earnestness to the song, and it’s an effective acoustic chiller. It feels like a gothic tale of woe that originated from long, long ago, and apparently (according to Wikipedia) Gano did base his song on an actual event from 1862.

Country Death Song has a pedigree that delves deep into Vintage Americana Horror. Put this one on your playlist and shudder for a good long while…

I threw my child into a bottomless pit
She was screaming as she fell, but I never heard her hit
She was screaming as she fell, but I never heard her hit…

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