Friday, March 1, 2013

Kind Tune of the Moment


 Daniel Lanois, The Maker

A brilliant song by a great producer and musician. Lanois is best known for his production work with U2, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, etc., but has made some of his own music over the years too, including this standout track covered by many. Lanois' version sounds like something a producer would come up with, weird sounds bubbling up, bouncing around. A little bit spiritual, a little bit New Orleans, Lanois adopted hometown, with a subtle and sweet guest appearance from the sleeveless Aaron Neville. 

Oh, oh deep water, black and cold like the night
I stand with arms wide open
I've run a twisted line
I'm a stranger in the eyes of the Maker

I could not see for the fog in my eyes
I could not feel for the fear in my life

From across the great divide, In the distance I saw a light
Of John Baptist walking to me with the Maker

My body my body is bent and broken by long and dangerous sleep
I can't work the fields of Abraham and turn my head away
I'm not a stranger in the hands of the Maker

Brother John, have you seen the homeless daughters
Standing here with broken wings
I have seen the flaming swords
There over east of Eden
Burning in the eyes of the Maker
Burning in the eyes of the Maker
Burning in the eyes of the Maker

Oh, river rise from your sleep
Oh, river rise from your sleep
Oh, river rise from your sleep

For Deadheads like myself, we first discovered this song when Garcia started playing it in his solo band. A perfect song musically and lyrically for Garcia, a spiritual ballad. Garcia digs deep for the vocal, and gets the guitar bouncing. Here's the first time they played it, and nailed it.

For most, the first time they heard the tune was at the end of Billy Bob Thornton's Slingblade, as sung by Willie Nelson. A beautiful ending to that film. This song might be the perfect intersection of Garcia and Nelson's style: drugged out Django Rheinhardt. Willie's version originally appeared on the Lanois produced album Teatro. A nice melding of both mens' styles, experimental and traditional.

 Lanois also produced Emmylou Harris' album Wrecking Ball, and surprise, this tune appeared there as well. Here it is live with an all star backing band, including Buddy Miller, again expiremental merging with country while crusing down to New Orleans.

And here's a version by Willie and Emmylou.

What the song is about is certainly up for interpretation. It feels spiritual, and references the bible. It's too vague to really pin down. If you love Jesus, it's probably about finding him. If you hate the Jesus, you might interpret it as a rejection of him. I tend to think that the act of being an artist is god-like, in that an artist creates, and becomes the Maker. Lanois is talking to himself here, looking for inspiration, finding empathy, having a revelation, trying to and succeeding in writing a song. Biblical references are excellent symbols as they are part of the fabric of our unconscious, but not necessarily an affirmation or condemnation of any religion. It's just he artist's lexicon. See also, Bob Dylan. Also, the song, like a dream, comes from the unconscious. It's not literal, and should not be interepreted using logic or the rational mind. Just experience it, and you'll feel pretty good.  

Here's another version by Lanois with Buddy Miller (who also played on Emmylou's version). Looks like they're playing an office Christmas party or something. Weird, but a cool stripped down version.