One of the best things about the month of October is getting in the mood for the brisk fall weather and the Halloween holiday. Eerie music is added to our playlists as we drive under the changing leaves in order to make our lives play out like an Autumn-tinted film. We’ve compiled a list of spooky country songs that are bound to become the soundtrack to the upcoming month.
1. “Kate McCannon” by Colter Wall
The country genre is known for its infamous murder songs. Even though they’re based in fiction, it doesn’t make them any less eerie. “Kate McCannon” is a perfect example of a storytelling murder ballad about a man who kills his wife after she cheats on him. The lyrics are filled with detailed imagery making the story Wall describes play out like a comprehensive horror film. In the first verse, Wall sings, “Well the raven is a wicked bird / His wings are black as sin / And he floats outside my prison window / Mocking those within / And he sings to me real low / It’s hell to where you go / For you did murder Kate McCannon.”
2. “Mean-Hearted Woman” by Adia Victoria
One of the newest tracks on the list, “Mean-Hearted Woman,” was on singer-songwriter Adia Victoria’s 2021 record A Southern Gothic. Written solely by Victoria, the track tells a tale about a man who’s cheating on his wife. The song grows with resentment as Victoria’s voice reflects the anger she’s emoting. At the very end of the track she says, “And after all the pain you put me through / You better hope that I don’t catch up with you / And if you see my shadows through the pine / Babe, it’s too late, it’s killing time / You made me a mean-hearted woman.” The spookiest thing about “Mean-Hearted Woman” is the ominous instrumental that exudes fear.
3. “I Feel a Sin Comin’ On” by Pistol Annies
From their second full-length album Annie Up which was released in 2013, “I Feel a Sin Comin’ On” by Pistol Annies is a slow burn of a creepy track. The country trio, made up of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley, lend their voices to create a witchy track that builds and builds as it progresses; it’s stripped back in the beginning but their voices grow with sinister emotion and electric guitars burst with rage towards the end. In the chorus they exclaim, “And you can see it all over my face / Sweet temptation all over the place / Give me tall, dark, and handsome / Mix it up with something strong / I feel a sin comin’ on.”
4. “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” by Johnny Cash
Arguably one of the eeriest country songs of all time, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” by Johnny Cash is filled to the brim with pure and utter wickedness. The heavy drum beats throughout the track seem to signal a warning and Cash’s low-toned vocals only add to the heavy feeling the song emits. In verse two, Cash states, “Well you may throw your rock and hide your hand / Workin’ in the dark against your fellow man / But as sure as God made black and white / What’s done in the dark will be brought to the light.”
5. “The Ghosts of Highway 20” by Lucinda Williams
Lucina Williams wrote her album The Ghosts of Highway 20 about a stretch of highway that runs from Texas to South Carolina. It covers many special places for Williams including her home state of Louisiana and other towns she’s lived in. The title track of the LP is especially haunting as she looks back on how things have changed and become run-down over time. The track sounds like the perfect anthem for a ghost town. Her raspy voice sings, “Southern secrets still buried deep / Brooding and restless ‘neath the cracked concrete / If you were from here, you would defend me / To the death along with the ghosts of highway 20.” What adds to the terror of the song is the fact that Williams could be referencing the victims of serial killer John Ackroyd; a documentary about his killing spree was also titled Ghosts of Highway 20.
6. “1000 Graves” by Ruston Kelly
“1000 Graves” is off of Ruston Kelly’s perfectly titled 2017 record Halloween. The song begins with soft drums and sinister guitar picking. More than anything, this song sounds like the season of fall; it’s rustic and peacefully acoustic. The lyrics seem to picture a person running away from themselves and their unfavorable past as Kelly sings, “Maybe I was born inside a shadow / I’m always starving for the light / The only roads I seem to follow / Are the ones leading to the night.”
7. “no body, no crime” by Taylor Swift feat. HAIM
Off of Taylor Swift’s 2020 album titled evermore, Swift tells a meticulously crafted tale of a woman, named Este (an actual name of one of the HAIM sisters), who’s being cheated on by her husband. Swift acts as the narrator of the story and plays the role of Este’s best friend who notices she goes missing. From there, our narrator goes on to commit a crime of her own. The song has a country feel as Swift connects with her early roots with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica. In the second verse she sings, “Este wasn’t there / Tuesday night at Olive Garden, at her job, or anywhere / He reports his missing wife / And I noticed when I passed his house his truck has got some brand new tires.” The HAIM sisters sing in the background with the repeating phrase, “He did it.”
8. “Dead of Night” by Orville Peck
Orville Peck is a rising country singer who hides his identity in a mask with fringe paired with a cowboy hat; his aura feels reminiscent of Halloween. He’s even set to open for Harry Styles’ “Harryween” shows on October 30th and 31st. His track “Dead of Night” was released on his debut full-length project Pony in 2019. The song isn’t necessarily scary or creepy, but it’s a perfect track for those brisk, fall nights. Peck’s incredible, baritone voice adds for a chilling effect as he sings over an atmospheric instrumental. “Six summers down, another dreamless night / You’re not by my side / Scratch on the moon, like a familiar smile / Stained on my mind / Some other town, someone else’s life / Dead in the night, in the night.”
9. “Two Black Cadillacs” by Carrie Underwood
One of the more well-known tracks on this list is ACM Award-nominated “Two Black Cadillacs” by country superstar Carrie Underwood. “Two Black Cadillacs” was written by Underwood, Hillary Lindsey, and Josh Kear and tells the story of two women who find out they’re with the same man. The two women take care of this problem by killing the unfaithful man. The song has a music video filled with dark hues as the words of the song are acted out perfectly by Underwood herself. The bridge of the song, though short, captures the message of the song perfectly as she sings, “It was the first and the last time they saw each other face to face / They shared a crimson smile and just walked away / And left the secret at the grave.”
10. “The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie” by Colter Wall
Colter Wall makes this list twice with one of his most popular tracks, “The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie.” Wall has said the song is based on the legend of Robert Johnson, a blues artist who sold his soul to the devil. The song starts with a tambourine and sounds from an acoustic guitar. Wall’s voice is the main attractor as he wails, “Don’t you know the devil wears a suit and tie? / I saw him driving down The 61 in early July / White as cottonfield and sharp as a knife / I heard him howling as he passed me by.” The images brought forth through the lyricism makes the song feel intense and tangible.
11. “Ouachita River” by Mary Heather Hickman feat. Stefanie Joyce
Rising country singer Mary Heather Hickman was born in Arkansas near the Ouachita River. During a songwriting retreat, she and her friend/frequent co-writer Stefanie Joyce came up with a murder song that’s reminiscent of The Chicks “Goodbye Earl.” It begins with a dismal voice saying, “There’s a body at the bottom of the Ouachita River.” As the song progresses, we learn that Hickman is singing from the perspective of a murderer. In the chorus she exclaims, “Run river run, cover up what I’ve done / Carry away what’s left of that sinner / There’s secrets in the Arkansas sand, mud on my boots, and blood on my hands.” You can read our interview with Hickman where she speaks about the new track here.
12. “Come Little Children” by Amanda Kate
Rising country singer Amanda Kate put her own spin on the well-known track “Come Little Children” from the 1993 hit film Hocus Pocus. In her cover, Kate makes the song completely country with bluegrass string sounds, a banjo, and energetic percussion. Her vocals add a playful twang that makes the song completely new and fresh; it keeps the creepiness of the original but with a western twist. At the end, Kate adds a key change that elevates her rendition of the infamous song that people have come to know and love.
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