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Saturday, November 20, 2010

247. "Early Mornin' Rain" by The Kingston Trio


This song was written by Gordon Lightfoot, and I have a whole bunch of different versions of it, but this particular performance by the Kingston Trio is the one that made me fall in love with it. The Trio changed the chord structure from Lightfoot's original, and I follow their lead here (although I completely reinvented the instrumental passage to sound a little more troubled). Both versions have an unusual construction that's not immediately apparent. There's no proper chorus, just the refrain of the title, which isn't at all unusual in blues or folk tunes, but the structure of the verses themselves are an odd sort of chordal sandwhich: the first and fourth lines share a chord sequence starting with the relative minor chord, but the middle two lines are a more consonant I - V thing. The fact that the 4th line comes right off of the 3rd while the 1st is more of a cold opening make it sound quite different each time: the minor chord at the beginning has a the effect of creating tension while the one in the 4th line has the effect of a sigh of resignation.

The limbo of being alone at an airport is a special kind of haunted purgatory, and all the worse if you can't actually go anywhere... the lyric captures that perfectly, and I loved it so much that I eventually wrote a song based on the same rough idea, "Redeye" (which never quite found a place to live itself). I also strongly relate this song to Merle Haggard's "Silver Wings", another favorite. I guess it's just a setup that resonates with me. I once scrawled down a line in a notebook about "the poetry of unloved places"... I had in mind the nondescript patches of litterstrewn land next to an average interstate gas station, which has probably been the site of innumerable breakups, breakdowns, family dissolutions, crimes, epiphanies, sex acts and other emotionally supercharged incidents, but are, in the end celebrated by no one. Sometimes I believe that is "my" subject matter.

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