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The Decemberists – Shankill Butchers (Tab)

The Decemberists – Shankill Butchers (Tab)

The Decemberists – Shankill Butchers (Tab)

There’s a long history of murder ballads in folk music. But they’re all set comfortably in the past. It’s a very different experience listening to a song about murders set in your own lifetime.

The Shankill Butchers were loyalist gang in 1970s Northern Ireland who viciously murdered 19 people (possibly with police turning a blind eye). Hearing a song mythologising them is an uncomfortable experience (particularly since Northern Ireland is perilously close to returning to those days). But it brings home how fresh the events in old murder ballads were to those who originated them.

Shankill Butchers is in the key of C#m. My first instinct was to rearrange it into a more uke-friendly key like Cm or Dm. But it turned out to work best in C#m. The intro riff (played with the thumb alternating between picking the g- and C-strings) works particularly well.

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