I didn’t learn this one until I was in my thirties and was bowled over by the Nick Cave / PJ Harvey version.  Then I saw the video, which is a masterpiece in my opinion – minimalist, raw despite the studio sound and makeup, the singers utterly believable in the roles being assumed, filmed in one take. I was obsessed with this song for weeks after that.   I made a friend come over with his guitar so I could work through the tune and chords, and we got most of it; then a few months later at a Florida riverhouse during one of those “large extended family and family friends” sessions, another friend figured out the rest and the extended family/friend attendees, ranging in age from 12 to 60, chimed in on tin whistle, vocals, several acoustics, fiddle, and bass. It was a fabulous night and is a fabulous memory.

You’ll find variations of this “scorned woman’s revenge” song listed as Young Hunting, Henry Lee, Love Henry, and Earl Richard, among others.

  • Dick Justice – Henry Lee. A wonderful, raw 1952 version.
  • Nick Cave and PJ Harvey – Henry Lee. A brilliant arrangement and duet. I don’t love everything Nick Cave does, but when he gets it right, he really gets it right. And he got this right.
  • Judy Henske – Love Henry. Starts out beautiful, ends up even better with just a little mania in the performance.
  • Tim Hart and Maddy Prior – Earl Richard – couldn’t find an available free-to-hear version as of last link update

Young Hunting is Child Ballad #68.  It is related to Young Benjie (Child Ballad 86) and Child Waters.  Some versions of Young Benjie, in which the killer is the man rather than the woman, and which have supernatural elements, are archived at sacredtexts.com.

The Love Henry thread at the Mudcat Cafe.

You’ll find, incidentally, that Nick Cave’s Curse of Millhaven is essentially the same tune, though with vastly different lyrics and a much different effect.


last link update: 20 May 2013