These days I usually just listen to the iPod at home and in the car, picking my own music instead of letting some unknown DJ pick it for me, but there are a few things on the radio that still make me sit down and listen – Mischke at night, The Current (though sometimes you can be to indie for your own good), Country Dave’s honky-tonk show on WOJB, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion. Yes, hi, I’m from Minnesoootah. While the format and gags on the show are usually pretty funny – but also pretty standard – the show excels at presenting great musical acts in a setting that promotes quality musicianship and – so important – quality sound.
One of Keillor’s favorite acts, it seems – and deservedly so – is the duo of Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings. For me, these guys sink right to the heart of everything that is good and true about American music. It also helps that Gillian has one of the best voices around today, and Dave Rawlings is perhaps the best and most innovative folk guitarist alive. They appeared on the show Memorial Day weekend to perform some songs from the excellent Dave Rawlings Machine record and a couple extras just for the show. One of those extras was a rendition of “Queen Jane Approximately,” a criminally underrated Dylan song from the Highway 61 Revisited album. Lost somewhere in the shuffle between “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Desolation Row,” where “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” is your signpost guiding you along, the siren squeals of “Highway 61” jolt you from your reverie, and “Ballad of a Thin Man” just creeps you out, there are the thick tones of organ, fuzzed-out guitar, and jangly upright piano of “Queen Jane.” Listen again with some fresh ears: it might just turn into one of your favorite Dylan songs, as it has for me.
Naturally Dave and Gillian strip away all that, leaving just the simple, lilting chord progression and melody intact. And from that they build a new masterpiece: one filled with subtle but powerful harmonies and waterfalls of arpeggio scales, cascading over and over again as if from a dizzying height down to earth. The intricacy of the guitar work belies an emotional simplicity that is easy to latch on to as the song carries you forward.
[wpaudio url=”http://sweatshirtpoesy.com/music/headphone_love/Queen%20Jane%20Approximately.mp3″ text=”Dave Rawlings Machine – Queen Jane Approximately” dl=”0″]
(Sorry for the squawks at the beginning – you can also listen to the original audio at the Prairie Home Companion website. Also you should definitely give Gillian and Dave some money for their music!)