Nightly Song
Musings on Songs that Strike a Chord Tonight

Posts Tagged ‘Song Analysis

Mother of God by Patty Griffin

June 4, 2010

Mother of God

Written and performed by Patty Griffin.

I told myself that I’d write about “Mother of God” because we have tickets to see Patty Griffin (and the Avett Brothers, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Richard Shindell, etc.) at the Appel Farm Festival this Saturday (thanks to Paddy and Jamie for the tickets). Truth be told, this song’s been running round my mind for many months. Griffin’s singing and the ethereal, yet muscular longing of the music persists in memory and functions like the pebble in the oyster agitating its way to something beautiful. The song sounds less like a performance and more a woman talking aloud, as if hearing her own words will help her find some peace and understanding. Far from a mere pop song or simple singer-songwriter confessional, “Mother of God” struggles to understand family and faith, life and purpose, and it avoids easy answers. The song evolves into a type of prayer, an offering of hope in the face of near certain futility.

Griffin builds the song around two women: a mother and the titular Mother of God. The singer/narrator, perhaps the eldest boy in the family or perhaps another sibling, is the third character in a kind of familial trinity, three separate, yet unified characters. Points of view fluctuate, the three main characters conflate and, though we follow a certain story and timeline, in many ways, the song views the same women and same relationship from different viewpoint. It is a song as cubist painting.


Dyslexic Heart by Paul Westerberg

May 13, 2010

Originally released on the soundtrack for the movie Singles, you can also find it on Besterberg: The Best of Paul Westerberg. You can see/hear the official video here. Click here for a good live version. Here’s another live version.

Paul Westerberg’s first effort after the demise of The Replacements, “Dyslexic Heart” is a nearly pure pop rendition of boy meets girl and boys winds up confused as hell. Of course, no pop is pure after you run it through the blender that is Paul Westerberg. We get a sweet harmonica, clever lyrics, fun puns, a hook almost good enough to have you humming it, rhythms that will have you tapping your foot, a few smart alack shots and a brilliant title phrase all spun together in a shiny concoction replete with waves of nanana.

A Fairy Tale of New York by the Pogues (with Kirsty MacColl)

May 13, 2010

Performed by the Pogues with help from Kirsty MacColl. You can hear the recorded version here. You can hear live versions here, here and here. Here’s a live version with Sinead O’Connor singing the female part (not a great recording).

A sad tale saved from pure sentimentality by some gritty lines and gutty singing, the song opens on a snowy Christmas Eve in the New York City drunk tank. A mournful piano plays in the background. An old man declares it will be his last (“won’t see another one”), then breaks into a version of “The Rare Old Mountain Dew,” an old time Irish ballad (click here for a version by the Dubliners). Here’s our Irish boy stuck in jail on Christmas Eve a long way from home. The combination of the drink, the old man’s singing and the Christmas holiday send the singer into reverie thinking about his love.

I Killed Sally’s Lover by the Avett Brothers

May 12, 2010

I Killed Sally’s Lover

The Avett Brothers From Live, Vol. II You can hear a live version here, here and here, .

You’re in a beer-soaked, sweaty North Carolina bar, three guys on the stage and wham: One-Two-Three-Four, guitars, banjo and upright base blast off like the amuck off-spring of speed metal and bluegrass, think Appalachian Ramones.

In one breath, we get the whole story: “Somebody get my shot got/Somebody get my blade/Sally’s been laying with another man/And he’s sleeping in my place.” No qualms, no equivocating, the singer relishes the moment, “Gonna shoot him sure as rain/You can run as fast you want to boy/I’ll kill you just the same.” They play with such reckless abandon, such joy. No moaning in a corner over betrayed love, no deep thoughts; it’s a song making lust tangible: “You can try to hide all you want boy/There ain’t nowhere to go.”

Stuck Between Stations by the Hold Steady

May 11, 2010

Crank this tune and enter the mess of whirling images and thoughts of fame, poetry, drinking, art, depression, Minneapolis winters, Catholicism, guilt, lust, and longing, most of all, longing for the promise and clarity offered by a girl. The song sometimes sounds bizarrely upbeat given that the core of the lyrics tell of John Berryman – the great American confessional poet – and his demise: jumping off the Washington Street Bridge in Minneapolis and drowning in the Mississippi River.

Juke by Little Walter

May 11, 2010

Feel like some Chicago blues? Want to hear some great harp work? Call up “Juke” and crank the sound. The first and only harmonica instrumental R&B single to reach number one on the Billboard charts, from the opening notes, Little Walter wraps that harp sound around chiming guitar chords and dances across the shifting boogie beat.