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The house makes weird noises at night. Shadowy figures stand at the foot of your bed. There's something in your closet. In honor of Halloween, FolkAlley.com has compiled a five-hour stream of music featuring ghost stories, witch songs, tales of the weird, vampire legends and, of course, murder ballads. If you're the least bit squeamish, afraid of the dark or living with an impressionable child, DO NOT LISTEN to this music stream. You've been warned.
Here are some highlights from FolkAlley.com's Halloween Scream Stream:
The Del McCoury Band
- Song: It's Just the Night
- from It's Just the Night
Walking in the woods alone at night can be terrifying. An owl hooting in the distance sounds like a signal from hell. Trees look like creatures under the moonlight. Not to fear, though: Bluegrass legend Del McCoury will walk you home.
Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem
- Song: O Death
- from Gambling Eden
Pleading for your life to Death himself may or may not help you in the end. "O Death" is found in both white and black folklore from Texas to the Georgia Sea Islands. Some say the words are those of a dying slave beaten by a cruel plantation mistress, while others claim that it comes from a Kentucky hill-preacher stricken by the Lord for ignoring His call. "I am Death, no one can excel / I open the doors to heaven and hell."
- Song: Unquiet Grave
- from Sunny Spells & Scattered Showers
Mourning for your dead lover is fine, but when you hang out by the gravesite for "twelvemonth and a day," weird things begin to happen. When your lover's ghost rises from the ground, you may want to kiss its cold clay lips. Not a good idea. This ballad comes from a highly important work by English scholar Francis James Child (1825-1896), from his English and Scottish Popular Ballads collection -- he included seven different variations on the text. Even the oddball rock band Ween recorded a version of this song. This is Child Ballad #78.
Tim O'Brien & O'Boys
- Song: He Had a Long Chain On
- from Oh Boy! O'Boy!
You're lying in bed at night when a man appears in your window with a long chain wrapped around his body. He makes a mournful sound. He's hungry. You feed him. You ask to set him free. He thankfully declines your offer and leaves, never to be seen again, but his chains still rattle around your house. Written by Jimmie Driftwood in 1960, this song has been covered by Odetta and Peter, Paul & Mary, and most recently by Robert Earl Keen.
- Song: Diana
- from First Utterance
Rumored to be a crazed cult worshipping the evil god Comus, this band recorded what may be the most sinister, demonic and morbid all-acoustic albums ever released: 1971's First Utterance. The truth isn't so horrid, though -- they were art students. While other bands at the time were singing about peace and love, Comus sang of ritual sacrifice. The group reunited in 2008.
Chris Boros is operations director for FolkAlley.com and music host for WKSU-FM in Kent, Ohio. He compiled Folk Alley's special Halloween Scream Stream.