This month's free download is a live cover of Steve Earle's harrowing depiction death row "Ellis Unit One," recorded live with Jeffrey Foucault at Passim this past summer. I first heard this song on the soundtrack to the movie "Dead Man Walking," where it easily outshone contributions from other artists like Michelle Shocked, Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen. When Jeff and I were putting together the track listing for our "Seven Curses" record, we thought it might be interesting to play around with the definition of what constitutes a 'murder ballad.' Does the sinister deed have to actually occur in the song? In a song about capital punishment, does the death penalty, on some level, qualify as 'murder?' Steve Earle's song immediately came to mind as one that would elegantly and forcefully pose such questions without offering any easy answers.
"Ellis Unit One" is available as a free download for the month of February.
written by Steve Earle