Folk music is metal as fuck—just because it’s played on banjos and mandolins and dulcimers or even a cappella doesn’t mean its beating heart doesn’t bleed black. Nick Cave understands this, a pretty significant chunk of the 20th century country music canon understand this, and The Body and Big|Brave most definitely understand. On “Polly Gosford,” the second track released from their upcoming collaboration Leaving None But Small Birds, the two bands—both steeped in heavy aesthetics but neither particularly traditional as far as metal goes—carry on the macabre folk storytelling tradition by employing the time-honored tradition of changing the story a little with each retelling.
“Polly Gosford” comprises a hybrid of lyrics from British, Canadian and Appalachian folk songs, creating something of a narrative mashup that primarily draws from the oft-performed “Pretty Polly.” Against a backdrop of acoustic guitars and ominous, distorted drones, Robin Wattie sings, “He covered her grave / and hastened home / Leaving none but small birds / her fate to bemoan,” depicting a gothic scene of murder not unlike the terrifying fates of characters in songs like “In the Pines” or “Knoxville Girl.” It’s not like the source material they draw from isn’t chilling enough, but the heavy lurch of the arrangement and the snarl of the distortion that injects “Polly Gosford” with a kind of terror that’s hard to shake.
From Leaving None But Small Birds, out September 24 via Thrill Jockey
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.