Posts Tagged ‘Richard Shindell’

‘By Way Of Sorrow’

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

I cannot yet process those things that happened over the past two days: First, the carnage Sunday night in Las Vegas – a new but so familiar chapter in the book of mass shootings in this country – and then, the death of Tom Petty Monday evening, its sadness augmented by the confusion sown earlier that day by premature announcements of his death.

All my adult life, I have believed that out of sorrow comes hope and out of grief comes healing. On mornings like this, after days like yesterday, those fundamental beliefs offer the slightest of comfort, and yet, I hold to them.

And I have no more words. So I lean, as I nearly always do, on the music in my life. As it has done before, Julie Miller’s “By Way Of Sorrow” provides me some comfort today and – I hope – for the tomorrows to come:

You’ve been taken by the wind; you have known the kiss of sorrow
Doors that would not take you in, outcast and a stranger
You have come by way of sorrow; you have come by way of tears
But you’ll reach your destiny meant to find you all these years
Meant to find you all these years

You have drunk a bitter wine with none to be your comfort
You who once were left behind will be welcome at love’s tables
You have come by way of sorrow; you have come by way of tears
But you’ll reach your destiny meant to find you all these years
Meant to find you all these years

All the nights that joy has slept will awake to days of laughter
Gone the tears that you have wept; you’ll dance in freedom ever after
You have come by way of sorrow; you have come by way of tears
But you’ll reach your destiny meant to find you all these years
Meant to find you all these years

Here’s the version of Miller’s song as recorded by acclaimed folk performers Dar Williams, Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell for their 1998 album Cry Cry Cry.

‘In The Coolness Of Your Shadow . . .’

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Driving down Lincoln Avenue toward some fast food last evening, I was listening – as I generally do in the car – to WXYG, the low-power album rock station that popped up on the AM band here in the St. Cloud area about a year ago. And as I pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot, I heard a familiar and mournful violin introduction come from the speakers, followed by the breathy voice of Jesse Colin Young:

Darkness, darkness, be my pillow, take my head and let me sleep
In the coolness of your shadow, in the silence of your deep.

The song was Young’s “Darkness, Darkness,” an eloquent and haunting surrender to despair recorded by the Youngbloods for their 1969 album, Elephant Mountain. Some listeners have heard a metaphor in the song for the anguish in Vietnam going on at the time the album came out, but I’m not so sure. Either way – or any other way – it’s a chilling song that gets a little trippy in the middle:

I’ve run across numerous covers of the tune in the last decade or so, including versions by Richie Havens, Richard Shindell, the pair of Elliot Murphy & Iain Matthews, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, Mott the Hoople, Robert Plant and the Cowboy Junkies. So with the song running through my head this morning, I dropped by Second Hand Songs to see who else might have covered the tune. The website listed ten versions of the song, including the original; I’ve heard eight of them, missing only those by Cassell Webb from 1990 and Golden Earring from 1995.

I also took a look at the mp3s available at Amazon, and that brought up quite a few other names, some of which I knew – like Michael Stanley (with the Ghost Poets) – and many that were unfamiliar. I listened to some samples but left my pocketbook untouched this morning (although there were a few versions that might merit exploration down the road).

So with all those names, what’s actually out there? Well, the Wilson sisters’ version, which showed up on Ann Wilson’s 2007 album, Hope and Glory, is just okay, and the same is true for Robert Plant’s cover, from 2002’s Dreamland. Mott the Hoople’s 1971 version from Brain Capers is good (if a little too Mott-y, if that makes any sense). Ian Matthews’ solo take on the song – found on his 1976 album Go For Broke (released before he changed the spelling of his first name to “Iain”) – felt too matter-of-fact at the start; it became more compelling as it went along but eventually did not match the version he recorded with Elliot Murphy for La Terre Commune in 2000. I do like Lisa Torban’s version (featured here eighteen months ago), which was used in the soundtrack of the 2003 film about the Titanic, Ghosts of the Abyss.

Keeping all that in mind, four versions of “Darkness, Darkness” stand out. Almost five years ago, I wrote that Matthews and Smith’s take on the tune was at the top of my list. Well, lists like that can change, and I now think that three other covers of Young’s song are a little better:  The Cowboy Junkies’ version of the song, released on a bonus EP with their 2004 album One Soul Now, seemed a bit leaden at first, but the slower tempo eventually pulled me in. And my growing appreciation for Richie Havens’ interpretation of the song will, I’m sure, be unsurprising to most readers. His version came out in 1994 on his Cuts to the Chase album.

But the cover that I prefer these days comes from folk artist Richard Shindell, who I think found the center of Young’s song when he recorded it for his 1997 album, Reunion Hill.