The American Murder Ballad

I love American roots music. A lot of music can fall into this category – blues, bluegrass, folk, soul, jazz, and country can all qualify – but today I want to write specifically about murder ballads. Murder ballads are uniquely American. There are, of course, songs about murder in every culture, but Americans truly made…

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The Montparnasse Derailment

On the afternoon of October 22, 1895, Guillaume-Marie Pellerin, the engineer of the Granville–Paris Express train, was irritable. He was behind schedule, though it was anyone’s guess why, since the train left Granville at 8:45 a.m., its usual time. Pellerin hated to be late. The speed of steam locomotive No. 721 may have been slowed by its cargo.…

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A Defining Moment for San Francisco, 111 Years Ago Today

One hundred eleven years ago today, on April 18 at 5:12 a.m., a violent earthquake shook San Francisco.   This was 30 years before the Richter scale was developed to measure an earthquake’s magnitude, and nearly 70 years before the system we use today, the Moment Magnitude scale. The scale ranks an earthquake on a scale…

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