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Local Song, local Story? The Louisville Burglar
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Many traditional songs are inspired by places or have places in their titles.

The Louisville Burglar is one of the songs which mentions our own city. The tale tells of someone, who, despite being ‘raised up by honest parents’, still fell to the burgling life, but was soon apprehended and dealt with.

The song exists in a multitude of versions, found in many different locations, and is connected with a range of other songs. I will delve a little deeper and explain a little more about the story and just what it is about.

The liner notes to one recording, made by the Iron Mountain String band, denote the song as a ‘badman song of American origin’. Iron Mountain learned the song from field recordings they collected in Grayson and Carroll counties, Virginia, beginning in 1956, and The New Lost City Ramblers, who recorded a famous version on their Vol2 record in 1959, note that it was:

“Played and sung on the original record at a break-neck pace with fiddle, banjo, and guitar by one of the early and anonymous groups recorded in the late 'twenties by the Okeh company.”

That group was:



But the story of the song is a little more complicated than at first it might seem. There is another song, which locates the action in Boston http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/folk-song-lyrics/Boston_Burglar.htm, and the two pieces seem mighty similar.
 

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About Gideon Thomas

I am a writer, journalist and music critic, working in a variety of musical areas. My work has appeared in a range of online and print outlets, and I am looking forward to the challenge of transferring my knowledge and skills to Louisville.com

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