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Bon Iver and the Chieftains make death sound beautiful on their remake of the traditional murder ballad “Down In the Willow Garden.”
The song, which appears on the Chieftains’ 50th anniversary album, “Voice of Ages,” spins a tale of a man about to be hanged for poisoning, stabbing and then dumping his lover’s body in the river. It’s been recorded by everyone from Charlie Monroe to the Everly Brothers to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and now it’s the Grammy-nominated Bon Iver’s turn. His take is haunting and mournful, as a murder ballad should be. It is also unexpectedly lovely, expecially because of the Chieftains’ instrumentation. It's streaming at Pitchfork.
The song is so lovely that it’s possible to get so drawn in by the fiddles and flute that you can easily miss such lines as “I drew my saber threw her; it was a bloody night/I threw her into the river; it was an awful sight.” Bon Iver's Justin Vernon is also working with The Flaming Lips.
As we previously reported, the Chieftains’ album, out Feb. 21, also includes duets with The Decemberists, the Low Anthem, The Civil Wars and Pistol Annies.
The Pistol Annies’ cover of “Come All Ye Faithful and Tender Ladies” can be heard here. No one dies, unless it’s from a broken heart. Their harmonies wrap around the harp beautifully.
You can just tell that this is one of those albums that has Grammy written all over it.