“I’ll cut away my bonnie hair…so no other man shall think me fair…my love lies dead in the
windy lowlands.” She chooses to shed her feminine beauty, so as to never love again. Lowlands,
as sung by Anne Briggs.
“Go down go down you Knoxville girl, you can never be my bride.” Based on the folk song
Knoxville Girl, as sung by the Louvin Brothers. She is killed by her lover, and thrown in the
river, her ghost rises up to seek justice before she can rest peacefully.
Wildwood Flower, as sung by the Carter Family. Her lover has left her, with “no warning or word of farewell.” In a moment of heartbreak, she boldly wields her beauty and power, singing “I will twine, I will mingle my raven black hair, with the roses so red and the lilies so fair.”
Cold Hailey Rainy Night
“Then she rose and let him in, and kissed his ruby lips and chin and then they went to bed again…” Cold Hailey Rainy Night, as sung by The Imagined Village, recounts an ancient occurrence known as the “night visit.” A man comes to his lover’s window after having traveled through the cold dark night, and asks admittance to her chamber. In a moment of sexual agency, she makes the choice to let him in.
Prove It On Me Blues
Prove It On Me Blues, by Ma Rainy depicts secret moments of discretionary lesbian love. The singer teases us singing, “They say I do it, ain’t nobody caught me. Sure got to prove it on me.”
The Unquiet Grave
The Unquiet Grave, as sung by Kate Rusby. A heartbroken woman holds vigil by her lover’s graveside for a year, for she “craves one kiss from (his) sweet lips.’ He is unable to rest peacefully, rising up from his grave to offer her a cold deadly kiss. She accepts.
Tam Lin (Child Ballad #39) by Anaïs Mitchell tells the story of a woman who falls in love with a cursed fairy. She must claim him and hold him while the queen of fairies transforms him into a lion, a bear and a wolf. Finally, “He changed all in her arms into a naked man. She’s wrapped him in her coat so warm, and she has brought him home.”
Easy Rider by Odetta tells the story of a woman scorned by her lover. She longs to escape the male gaze. She dreams of transforming into a catfish, swimming in the sea, to “keep those men from fussing over me.” In the distance the easy rider watches her leave him.
Easy Virginia as sung by Joan Baez. The singer pines for a woman until the day he dies. In death he calls out, “look on the way you done.” An ironic ode to the romantic entitlement of folk music, the unnamed voiceless woman of the song is portrayed here as a shining knight, come to his grave to spite him in death.