The Ten Bleakest Songs In Country Music History
Country music isn't all high-tech rednecks and honky tonk badonkadonks. Country artists have a tendency to, every now and then, sing about some dark, disturbing stuff. Sometimes scary, sometimes violent, and sometimes just weird, here are some country songs that rival the blackest of metal jams for their dark subject matter.
10. Johnny Cash, "Delia's Gone"
Never has there been a murder ballad that seemed to take more pleasure in the long, drawn-out execution of a cheatin' woman than this song by Johnny Cash. In exhaustive detail, he describes tying her to a chair, shooting her in the side to watch her suffer, and then finishing her off with another shot.
The song even ends by encouraging you to do the same if your woman is as low-down and trifling as Delia was. Is that even legal?
The protagonist in "The Long Black Veil" is suspected of murder - people saw a man who looked like him running from the scene. He's innocent of that particular crime, but he can't give an alibi because at the time of the murder, he was fooling around with his best friend's wife. Whoops. He goes to the gallows, and every now and then she visits his grave in a long black veil and cries like some kind of licentious La Llorona.
A lot of good that does him as he's rotting in the ground.
8. Johnny Paycheck, "Pardon Me, I've Got Someone to Kill"
It's not all that surprising that the man who so convincingly rendered David Allan Coe's "Take This Job and Shove It" could do the same on a murder ballad. This time, he plays a man confessing what he's about to do to a bartender. What he's about to do, of course, is take off and kill his cheatin' wife, the guy she's cheatin' with and himself.
Yeah, this song takes an even darker turn than usual because the protagonist is clearly determined to make this thing a murder-suicide. This is pretty much country music's definition of "couples therapy."
The protagonist in Okkervil River's twisted epic "Westfall" - look for the live version, it's actually better than the one they recorded in the studio - begins his tale by painting a picture: he's holed up somewhere with multiple law enforcement officers surrounding him, waiting to take him to prison. He then recounts why: He and his friend Colin Kincaid took a couple of girls visiting from out of town out into the woods and killed them. Why, he doesn't say, implying that there didn't even need to be a "why."
The singer gets nabbed by the cops, and in an eerie sequence reflecting so many modern news stories, he mocks the cameras pointing at him, singing "Looking for evil, they're thinking they can trace it, but get this/ Evil don't look like anything." The song explodes as he repeats the mantra "Evil don't look like anything," and if that doesn't send chills down your spine, nothing will.
6. Jamey Johnson, "The High Cost of Living"
A stark, grim portrait of the artist's past drug addiction, "High Cost of Living" goes into vivid detail, describing days-long benders, numbed-out eightball sessions, and getting arrested in a motel with a prostitute. "The high cost of living / ain't nothing like the cost of living high" Johnson intones, and his weary voice and personal lyrics tell us he knows of what he speaks.
As YouTube commenter hybanks2000 puts it, "This song is powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline."