Murder Ballads is the duo of Catt Kingsgrave and Adam Fromm, two singer-songwriters with decades of background performing and recording before joining forces in 2010. Catt is a writer and musician who started writing songs at 13 upon receipt of her first guitar (a Lyle that she still performs with today). She promptly found herself in the Texas filk scene, culminating with her five-year stint as a founding member of the seminal Dallas band Ravens, before making her way to Troy, NY. Meanwhile, Adam took a quieter path from his Illinois birthplace and his mother’s borrowed nylon-string Goya to his eventual home in Providence, RI, releasing a pair of self-produced CDs along the way.
Catt and Adam met through mutual friends sometime in the middle of the last decade, and first came together onstage when Catt invited Adam to join her for a performance of “Battle Raven,” an old Ravens song of hers. There soon followed a period of the two repeatedly guest-appearing at each other’s solo gigs until they realized they weren’t fooling anyone, least of all themselves, and named themselves Murder Ballads after the folk tradition of songs describing sinister intentions and untimely demises. Their first album, Pretty in Scarlet, was released in 2014 following a successful crowdfunding campaign and the repeated three-hour commute between their homes that continues to plague them, and contains a capricious selection of originals old and new, traditional songs reverent and reconfigured, and covers ranging from Dave Carter to Sisters of Mercy.
Murder Ballads’ sound is an eclectic blend of whatever strikes their fancy: sincere folk originals, bluesified treatments of Anglo-Celtic standards, reimaginings of favorites in whatever genres they have lying around, trips through cockeyed humor (their biggest hit is called “The Ballad of Captain America’s Disapproving Face”), and yes, the occasional actual murder ballad.