It deftly weaves the music into a narrative that is a meditation on music, race, obsession, and how far someone will go to see their vision become real, Murder Ballads follows the fall and reinvention of Nate Theodore, the dead-broke and deadbeat owner of a failed record label who is on a cross-country drive in the dead of winter with his wife Mary, fleeing the wreckage of their business and heading towards the destruction of their marriage. But Nate is given an unexpected chance to redeem himself when, during an unscheduled detour, he "discovers"Donny and Marvell Fontweathers, two African-American brothers who play a singular version of doom-laden country blues.
Convinced that the brothers are the key to his salvation, Nate's desperate to make an album with the brothers before someone else finds out about them-but he needs money. Money he doesn't have and can't get through any conventional means. So he persuades Donny and Marvell to join him in a crazy scheme: they'll undertake a minor crime spree to raise the funds needed to produce their record. Naturally, complications arise for this wannabe modern-day Alan Lomax and his soon-to-be stars, and just like in the murder ballads the Fontweathers Brothers play, the body count starts to grow.