I was lucky enough to see Gillian Welch at Maymont on Sunday night. The show was excellent, aside from cicadas trying so hard to drown out the music that Welch and Dave Rawlings actually commented on them. Seeing her sing “Hard Times” was incredibly meaningful, but what’s stuck with me most is a cover they played.
“Stuck with me” might not be strong enough language. It’s more like I’ve been haunted. It’s been stuck in my head, I’ve been singing the chorus to my daughter, I’ve missed out on some sleep because my brain has decided that bedtime is when I should try to run through the lyrics… It’s a little nuts.
I’m talking about “Dublin Blues,” a Guy Clark song. Welch played it as a tribute to Clark, who died in May of this year, finishing with “We love you, Guy!” and a story about Clark championing her music early in her career. I took a video of it (I try to keep my phone in my pocket as much as possible at shows these days, but hearing “This is a cover of…” causes involuntary reflexes to kick in) and I watched a few times when I got home, then found Clark’s studio version, and haven’t really stopped listening since, if you count the intra-cranial plays.
It’s hard to put a finger on why “Dublin Blues” managed hijack my brain, but if I had to guess, I’d say it has something to do with the way it plays with the idea of sophistication. By singing “I have been to Forth Worth, and I have been to Spain,” Clark upends the notion that people who drink Mad Dog margaritas have no culture, while simultaneously elevating the everyday experiences of those who may not have the means to visit Europe. He does the same by finishing a list of wonders he’s seen — Michelangelo’s David, the Mona Lisa — with seeing Doc Watson play “Columbus Stockade Blues,” a wonder that, ironically, will never be seen again. (For a sillier take on the same idea, try “We’re Not The Jet Set.”) And the whole story is couched in heartache — something that can strike anyone at anytime. All that nuance, just three chords, as best as I can tell.
Speaking of just three chords, hey band guys — if you’re reading this, wanna cover it? I’ve been working on the lyrics…