Marc Nerenberg | Delia's Gone: Murder Ballads & Other Songs of Love & Death

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Folk: Appalachian Folk Folk: Traditional Folk Moods: Type: Acoustic
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Delia's Gone: Murder Ballads & Other Songs of Love & Death

by Marc Nerenberg

Highly distinctive original arrangements of traditional murder ballads, and other songs about love and death, with a few originals thrown in, all accompanied in old time banjo styles.
Genre: Folk: Appalachian Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Delia's Gone
6:01 $0.99
2. Little Sadie (Live)
5:01 $0.99
3. Dink's Song
6:00 $0.99
4. Poor Aunt Lisa
3:31 $0.99
5. Delia's Dilemma
5:36 $0.99
6. Darlin' Corey (Live)
4:18 $0.99
7. Pretty Polly
7:59 $0.99
8. Puppets in Raincoats
3:42 $0.99
9. Saint James Infirmary Blues
6:38 $0.99
10. Toby
4:50 $0.99
11. Bleaching Bones (Live)
5:28 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes

Traditional – additional lyrics by Marc Nerenberg
Rubber tired buggy, double seated hack
Took my sweet child to the bone yard, never brought her back.
And now all I ever had is gone.

Delia, Delia, how’d things go so wrong?
Everybody’s talking ‘bout my Delia’s dead and gone.

CHORUS: Delia’s gone, one more round (repeats)

She was a scrub-girl in the whorehouse; my Delia was no whore.
Bullet in the night left her lying on the floor.

It was the whorehouse Christmas party; my Delia was just a child.
But that boy-child who was courting her kept saying, “She’s so wild.”

He called her his easy rider, and said she rode like a buckaroo.
She said, “You lying son of a bitch! I’m a lady, that’s not true!”

Well then, he looked at her and he snarled, “How dare you call me that name!”
And he reached down for his gun, and then he took dead aim.


Delia, Delia, oh Lord why didn’t you run?
Didn’t you know that boy child, he was carrying that gun?

Been thinking ‘bout my Delia; it’s like drinking from a broken cup.
She’s down there in the bone yard, and she ain’t never gonna get up.


Y’know, they were both just fourteen, when my Delia died that night.
And now I’ve buried my own sweet daughter, and my life just don’t seem right.

Traditional – additional lyrics by Marc Nerenberg
Every man in town knew Little Sadie. Ah, she were my wife, but she weren’t no lady.
Her one true love was my cocaine. She took it all one night, and was gone again.

I went out that night, makin’ my rounds. Oh, I met my Little Sadie and I blowed her down.
I run right home, and I jumped into bed, with my 44 smokeless under my head.

Well, I begun to think of what a deed I’d done. Oh, I grabbed my hat, and I begun to run.
I made a good run, but I run too slow. They overtook me down in Jericho.

I was just standin’ on the corner readin’ my bill, when up stepped the sheriff from Thomasville.
He said, “Young man, is your name Brown? Remember the night you blowed Little Sadie down?”

I said, “No sir, my name is Lee! If you got any papers, don’t you serve ‘em on me.”
Then he said, with his gun in his right hand, “Why don’t you try that story on the witness stand?”

And then he put me on a train and he brought me back, to face the judge, all dressed in black.
I had no one for to go my bail. They crammed me into that county jail.

I was in the courtroom for my trial. The jury marched in in single file.
And the witnesses looked me straight in the eye, and they all said, “That’s the guy!”

Well, the jury said, “murder in the first degree”. I said, “Oh Lord! Have mercy on me!”
The judge, he sent me straight to the pen – to keep me from killin’ ever again.

Well, it’s 99 years of linin’ track, with this stripèd shirt across my back,
And around my legs, this ball and chain. That’s the sentence he did ordain.

And so, young men, heed my advice: if you’ve got a woman, better treat her nice.
And don’t neither one of you touch cocaine. You don’t want this ball and chain!

Traditional – additional lyrics by Marc Nerenberg
If I had wings, like Noah’s dove,
I’d fly up the river, see the one I love. Singin’ …
Fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well. (repeats each stanza)

Well, I had a man, he was long and tall.
Oo, he could move his body, like a cannon ball. Oh …

Oh, once I wore, my apron low.
I couldn’t keep you away from my door. Sayin …

Well, then my apron, was up my chin.
Why, you pass my doorway, but you never come in. Oo …

Well, now my apron strings, they will not tie.
And I’m standing in my doorway, but you don’t never pass by. Sayin’ …

You’re the fastest man I ever done saw.
Oh, you skipped Missouri all the way to Arkansas. Oo …

Well, now this river - is deep and wide.
And the man I love is on the other side. Sayin …

Yeah, this river - is muddy and wild.
Oh, I could make it bloody with my unbornded child. Sayin …

Oh, the midnight train, don’t mean no harm.
Yeah, the midnight train would bring my honey straight back home. Said …

Well, on that morning, and it won’t be long.
Well, you could come and call my name out, but honey, I’d be gone. Singin’ …

By Marc Nerenberg
Poor Aunt Lisa ate a piece a’ poisoned pie meant for rich Uncle Jim.
Undertaker came to take her: pie killed her - instead of killing him.

She had no money. It wasn’t funny that I killed poor Lisa by mistake.
Rich Jim’s still living so I’m giving him a pet - a darling venomous snake!

Uncle Jerry ate a cherry I left for him in his dining room.
Coat of strychnine, deadly, unseen - choke cherry - sent Jerry to his tomb.

For Uncle Neil, a Chinese meal, with Hoisin sauce, for dipping on the side.
A touch of poison in the Hoisin - Uncle Neil - took his last rickshaw ride.

Well, though Aunt Suzie was a floozy, why kill her? All she did was misbehave.
Just can’t resist, so I persist in sending rich relations to their grave.

So Uncle Ted, of course he’s dead. A poisoned pill – in his coffee I slipped that!
Oh, read his will: what a bitter pill. He left his whole estate to feed his cat.

Oopsy daisy! I got lazy with the snake cage – I left an open latch.
It’s open wide: no snake inside. I hope that snake is an easy one to catch!

Ah, poor Aunt Lisa ate that piece a’ poisoned pie that was meant for Uncle Jim.
So I got that snake, Jim’s life to take: but now that snake wants a piece a’ me, not him.

By Marc Nerenberg
Toby lay there bleeding, with a bullet in his side.
He looked up at the woman who once thought she would be his bride.
She had a pistol in her hand, and she was trying to decide
If she should shoot him again, and bring that game to an end, or just let it all ride.

(She said:) I used to think that I loved you. Ha! But you were just good in bed.
Then you married her, instead of me. “Just for her money” you said.
Well, if I don’t kill you this time, I expect you’ll soon wind up dead.
When them card sharks catch you cheating, they’ll just shoot you through the head!

Delia was a gambling grifter, and she drifted from town to town.
Whenever she met with a deck of cards, she would lay her money down.
Now, she didn’t win all the time, but she could keep up with the best,
Until she fell under Toby’s spell, and she followed him out west.

When Toby told Delia he loved her, ah, she should have known that was a lie.
But she wanted so badly to believe it that she never even questioned why.
Oh, as soon as he saw her playing cards, Toby knew that Delia was a find.
She could let him know, when by his side, whether he should fold - or let it ride. All he loved was her razor sharp mind.

Together they drifted to Frisco, at first just as friends, but soon more.
When they got to the coast, Toby would boast that Delia was his paramour.
They went straight to the gambling tables, by the sawdust covered dance floor.
They shared more than a bed: they were partners, instead of just Toby and some nameless whore.

There were gold nuggets right on those tables, and gold miners filling those chairs.
Just like them, Toby checked out the dancehall girls in contemplation of sampling their wares.
There was a striking young blonde in particular that instantly caught Toby’s eye.
Oh, she meant Delia no harm. She was always on the arm of this very old, very rich guy.

And then it turned out that he was her husband. He sat down next to Toby one day.
When the cards were dealt round, with nary a sound, they anted up, ready to play.
But as they played, he caught Toby cheating! He grabbed his arm, and said Toby would pay.
But he was old and near death; and then he took his last breath; and those words were the last he would say.

Toby courted his striking young widow, and beguiled his way into her heart.
The old man’s bell had rung. The new suitor was young. And they promised never to part.
That new bride was so stunning but vacant. Soon Toby missed being with someone smart.
He missed the thrill on Delia’s face when they’d turn a deuce into an ace. Ah, together they made cheating such an art.

Toby spent his whole life balanced there, on that sharp edge of a knife.
So he made his way straight back to Delia, to cheat – but not on that gorgeous new wife.
He said, “Delia come sit back beside me. But this time it’s just business.” And then –
He felt a pain in his side, like it was blown open wide, and Delia was aiming again.

Toby, he lay there bleeding, with that bullet in his side.
He looked up at that woman, who once thought she would be his blushing bride.
She had that pistol in her hand, and she was trying real hard to decide
If she should end it all now, or forgive him somehow, and just let it all ride. 2q3

Traditional – additional lyrics by Marc Nerenberg
Wake up, wake up, Darlin’ Corey. What makes you sleep so sound?
The revenue officers are coming. Gonna tear your still-house down.

The first time I seen Darlin’ Corey, she was sitting on the stump of a tree,
With a .44 hanging by her side, and a banjo on her knee.

And the first time I heared Darlin’ Corey, she was singing with a voice rough as sand.
And she was beatin’ on that banjo, frailin’ with a hammer-like hand.

Well, how I loved Darlin’ Corey. Couldn’t love her more if I tried.
And oh how my heart was broken the day Darlin’ Corey died.

Yeah, the last time I seen Darlin’ Corey, she had a dram glass in her hand.
And that .45 strapped acrosst her shoulders, that she could shoot like any man.

And the last time I heard Darlin’ Corey, it was the sound of her firin’ gun.
Six shots came back in answer. Corey never had no chance to run.

Dig a hole, dig a hole in the meadow. Dig a hole in the cold, cold ground,
Where I can lay my Darlin’, yeah, lay Darlin’ Corey down.

He, can’t you hear that banjo ringing? Can’t you hear that lonesome sound?
Can’t you hear them pretty girls a-laughing, while they dance on the cold, cold ground?

Wake up, wake up, Darlin’ Corey. What makes you sleep so sound?
Them revenue officers are long gone, but you’re still in the cold, cold ground.

Traditional – additional lyrics by Marc Nerenberg
Near the harbour, where ships sail to many a foreign town (2x)
There lived a lovely damsel known as Pretty Polly Brown.

Oh, Handsome Willie said they’d marry; but her trust he did betray.
Willie vowed that they would marry; but her trust he did betray.
Yes, he vowed that they would marry; but instead led her astray.

Soon Polly, she could see that things were just not right (2x)
And Willie, he could see that her dress was growing tight.

And (Oh,) he said, “Polly, Pretty Polly, come and take a walk with me (2x)
Before we be married, some pleasure to see.”

And (Oh,) then he took her in a forest, so damp and dark and deep. (2x)
The darkness in that place soon made Polly start to weep.

“Oh Willie, oh Willie! I guess you’ve brought me here to die, (2x)
For you wish not for a wife, nor to hear your baby cry.”

“Oh Polly, Pretty Polly, well, you’re guessing just about right, (2x)
And I was here to dig your grave the better part of last night.”

“Oh Willie, oh (please) Willie! Won’t you pardon me my life? (2x)
I never more will covet for to be your darling wife.”

“Oh, look how your grave’s wide open; and my spade is standing by. (2x)
So into that deep grave, your fair body, it must fly.”

And then (Yes,) he stabbed her, and impaled her! Oh, (And) how her blood did flow! (2x)
Till deep into that grave, her dead body he did throw.

Willie buried her so neatly, and he covered her so well, (2x)
And there was no one there to see, so there was no one who could tell.

And then he went to board a ship for to sail the wide world round (2x)
He thought not that Polly’s awful fate ever would be found.

But (Oh,) late one night, as Willie was a-sailing, feeling bold (2x)
Pretty Polly stood before him! It made his blood run cold!

And that ghastly ghost grabbed Willie, and it ripped him into three. (2x)
“That’s what you get for murdering my unborn babe and me.”

By Marc Nerenberg
Hooks in store windows now only hold rotting meat.
The whole town is starving, there’s not a speck left to eat.
A large group of puppets are milling about on the street.

The hotel is empty. The puppets have killed the last guest.
The flags on the flagpoles flap in the winds from the West.
The puppets start dancing, pounding their fist to their chest.

The puppets keep dancing. The people keep falling down dead,
Dying in alleys, in the streets, and at home in their bed.
Those puppets keep dancing. They need neither meat nor bread.

A storm in the night covers the town in hard rain.
The force of that storm derails an oil tanker train
In the center of town where those puppets are dancing again.

Rivers of oil slicks cover dead ducks in a trench.
A deathly decay fills the night air with its stench,
While puppets in raincoats are enjoying it all from a bench.

Lightning strikes! And fire erupts in mid-town
Soon everything’s gone. Soon the whole town has burnt down.
Just those puppets are left, mechanically dancing around.
All those puppets in raincoats,

Traditional – additional lyrics by Marc Nerenberg
Was down in old Joe's barroom, on the corner of the square,
And they were serving all them drinks like usual, and the usual crowd was there.

On the left, stood Big Joe McKennedy. His eyes, they were bloodshot red.
And as he turned to face all the people standing there, these were the very words that he said:

“I went down to St. James infirmary, to see my baby there.
And she was stretched out on a long white table, so sweet, so cold, so fair.

Let her go, let her go, God bless her, wherever she may be.
If she could search this wide world over, she’d never find another sweet man like me.

And as I watched her layin’ there dead, well, I knew that my time weren’t long.
All those nights my baby shared my bed, bound to kill me, though she meant me no wrong.

And when I die, won’t you please bury me in my very best high top Stetson hat.
And put a $20 gold piece on my watch chain, so they’ll all know that I died standing pat.

And find me six crapshooters to be my pallbearers, and 7 pretty women to sing me a sad song.
And stick a jazz band right up there on my old hearse wagon, and then raise hell, as we go rolling along.

But let her go, let her go, God bless her, wherever she may be.
If she could search this whole wide world over, she’ll never find another sweet man like me.”

Well now that you've heard my sad story, give me another shot of your good booze.
And if anybody here should ask you, tell ‘em I got those Saint James Infirmary blues.

10. TOBY
By Brien Lavene
Arranged and adapted by Marc Nerenberg
Well, there was real live action in that barroom.
There was real hard money in the pot,
When they found old Toby with that fifth ace, up his sleeve,
And they shot him through the head, bless his heart.

And it was dealing he lived. And it was dealing he died.
Yeah it was dealing he lived. And it was dealing Toby died.

But I ain’t gonna be no pauper when I die.
Oh, I might stoop to sin – but I don’t lie.
And I ain’t gonna be no back street walker, no I ain’t.
And I ain’t gonna be no pauper when I die.

Yeah, with one roll of the dice I could be finished.
But I never try to play above my style.
Yet I could stand on any corner here, in this old town of yours,
And pick out every sucker for a mile.

When I was young, I knew this gambling man called Toby.
Toby said he was the very best around.
He said, “Kid, you stick with me, you’ll learn this gambler’s trade,
And the hottest spots to make your deal go down.”

And it was dealing he lived. And it was dealing he died.
Yeah, it was dealing he lived. But it was dealing Toby died.

Now, Toby dragged me halfway ‘cross the country.
He said to stay too long one place was bucking the odds.
And he always knew the very best of bordellos.
In a game of stud, he showed the confidence of the gods.

From Little Rock, we hitched a train to Memphis
Toby knowed a club near Beale where we could score.
And them high yaller women sure was appealing.
You could hear the bones - rolling ’cross the floor.

Well, we set up at a table in the corner,
To commence another Saturday gambling show.
And the blues band was singing about a mojo.
There was a yell, and then I heard the forty-four.

And that’s when dealing he lived. That’s when dealing he died.
That’s when dealing he lived. That’s when dealing Toby died.

Yeah, there was real live action in that barroom.
There was real hard money in that pot,
When they caught old Toby with that fifth ace up his sleeve,
And they shot him through the head, bless his heart.

But I ain’t gonna be no pauper when I die.
Oh, I might stoop to sin – but I don’t lie.
And I ain’t gonna be no back street walker, no I ain’t.
And I ain’t gonna be no pauper when I die.

By Marc Nerenberg
Bleaching bones lay in the desert. The wind covered them with sand.
The sun was at its zenith in the sky.
He’d set out to find a treasure, But he did not understand
That he would only find this lonely place to die.
She rode by on horseback. She saw a hat blown by the breeze
With a snake-shaped silver buckle on its brim.
She sat straight up in the saddle, though she felt weak in the knees.
She realized those bones belonged to him

Her hair and eyes were black. Her beauty was renowned.
She was a striking figure against the sky.
She reached the place where they would meet to share what they had found.
Since there was nothing there to share, she rode on by.

She picked up the pace at dusk. She knew that close behind
There was more than one pursuer on her trail.
She rode relentlessly all night, pressing on, before they’d find
Those bones of the man she’d sprung from jail.
Ride like the wind. Ride on.
Disappear before you can be found.
Keep on moving. Keep on pressing on.
Don’t look back. Never turn around.

Her saddlebags held silver. She wore three diamonds on each ear.
She knew where that desert treasure had been lost.
Oh, she may return some day to find it. But for now she shed a tear
For that lover that some dog had double-crossed.
While she rode with grace and beauty, her fathomless dark eyes
Were windows on the pain she felt within.
She rode up into the mountains. But as the sun began to rise,
Those men upon her trail were closing in.
Ride like the wind. Ride on.
Disappear before you can be found.
Keep on moving. Keep on keeping on.
Don’t look back. Never turn around.

Her trail uphill was narrow. Her horse found it too steep.
He tripped and tumbled; as he rolled he split his head.
She limped and climbed that hill on foot, with as much silver as she could keep.
Like her lover, now her horse just lay there dead.
The men who chased her nearly caught her. But she remained unseen.
She blended in among her people on that hill.
To outsiders, she was invisible, unless she wanted to be seen.
For all they know, she could be running still.

Many a winter’s turned to summer, and turned her old and grey.
Now she wears a silver bracelet on her wrist,
That’s shaped like a snake coiled ‘round it, and sometimes she will say,
That she wears it to remember what she’s missed.
Those bones out in the desert, they still lie bleaching in the sun.
She still rides out to see them when she can.
To remember how she lost him, when they both were on the run.
Oh, she’d give back all her silver for her man.

All songs, arrangements and adaptations © 2019 by Marc Nerenberg



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