Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I long to see you...

Heard a song getting ready for work this morning that took me to the beginning of my long love affair with American folk/roots music.

Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you/Away you rolling river...

I was back in music class at Brickey Elementary School, that beautiful old brick building that no longer stands. I can still see me sitting there on the bleachers, wearing an alligator shirt and singing to my little heart's content, full of naive wonder about the world.

Away, I'm bound away/Across the wide Missouri...

Wikipedia says that "Shenandoah" originated in the early 19th century as a river chantey. The song spread up and down the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and eventually became a haunting installment in the American songbook.

The meaning is disputed. Obviously a tale about a wanderer's love for an Indian girl, arguments have arisen over whether Shenandoah is an Indian chief or the famous Virginia river. Apparently the doubt was enough to keep the song from becoming a Virginia state song a few years ago.



The version I heard this morning was from an old late 60s/early 70s Glen Campbell album. His cover is full of lush strings and a choir; it is a wistful treatment that fits the moment. One can almost feel the longing.

Away, I know I'll go/Across the wide Missouri...

The song has made its way into our popular culture. Bob Dylan recorded the song on one of his albums. Richard Nixon, who apparently loved the song, left instructions for it to be played at his funeral. Filmmaker Oliver Stone used the song to close his 1995 biopic on the 37th president.

Good stuff.

Sad song of the week: Found a new sad song that I'm climbing the walls over.



A few weeks ago, I read News Sentinel columnist Wayne Bledsoe's interview with The Everybodyfields, the Alt-Country Johnson City duo Sam Quinn and Jill Andrews. I missed the group's appearance at the World Grotto because of illness, but their new album "Nothing is Okay" is a sight, er sound, to behold.

I'll write an elaborate review later, but you simply have to stop what you're doing and find a copy of this song "Savior." This may replace George Jones's "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and RobinElla's "Teardrops" as my favorite sad song. Here, listen:

Love's not a savior/when you're messed up/when you're messed up, forever

You feel you're drowning in red hearts/Wrapped in red ribbons/And blue skies

Then somebody pulls the plug/It all goes down the drain/Don't we all change?


God, that should be illegal.

Anyway, I think I've found a new favorite. I'm going to catch these folks next time they are anywhere near East Tennessee.

Beautiful, simply, wonderfully, heartbreakingly beautiful.

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