The Leadbelly version of this song is very nice; he has a great soulful voice. But more than anything else, it’s hard to find a decent recording, which is understandable given the age of the song, which he released in 1944.
The song itself is probably much older, as it derives from an old folk song, variously called “In The Pines” or “Black Girl”.
The Nirvana cover is on the excellent album MTV Unplugged, and Kurt Cobain is truly incredible. He starts off more restrained, and by the end of the song he is in a primal state, screaming out the lyrics as the backing instruments get more and more aggressive.
The song is haunting in an edgy sort of way, like broken glass reflecting a rose.
Cobain was dead by the time MTV Unplugged was released in 1994, which is one of the the enduring losses to music. And there have been far too many of those.
Raw, untapped emotion on display here.