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Photograph of Cari Norris Cari Norris at the Celebration of Traditional Music, Berea, Kentucky, October 1997.  

“PRETTY POLLY” by Cari Norris: Probably one of the most widely known Appalachian ballads. A grisly tale which relates the murder of a woman whose lover shows her the grave he just dug before plunging a knife through her heart and throwing her in the ground. Lily May Ledford sang this song to her granddaughter Cari when the latter was just a baby. Instead of scaring her, Cari claims to have been mesmerized by the lyrics. Cari also believes that by singing “Pretty Polly,” Lily May was “expressing in metaphor…her career under John Lair. And that’s what art does. You say things in metaphors which are more powerful anyway.” For all these reasons we chose to include the song in its entirety, Cari is playing Lily May’s Vega banjo on this tune which was recorded in October 1997 at the Berea Celebration of Traditional Music. “Pretty Polly” can also be heard on Cari’s recording Morning and Night.

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PERFORMANCE:   “Pretty Polly”

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