' I've lost the power I had to distinguish between what to ignite and what to extinguish' – Rowland S. Howard

Month: November, 2012

Buckets of Buckets of Rain

A few cover versions of ‘Buckets of Rain’

As I posted a version of a Dylan song by Keb Mo yesterday, will start with one by the excellent Eric Bibb (unfortunately I think he takes it too fast);


Will follow it with the John Renbourn version:


My favourite cover, however, is Dave Van Ronk’s beautiful and magisterial version:

Bob Dylan, Elliott Smith, Keb Mo’

Just discovered this interesting cover version of ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ by the late great Elliott Smith:

Here is his excellent version of ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’:

Will round this off with Keb Mo’s version of “The Times they are a Changin’:

Bob Dylan, T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

For some reasons, these lines from T.S. Eliot’s ‘Little Gidding’ – originally, it appears, designed to refer to W.B. Yeats – seem to me to apply well to ‘Tempest’ (the entire album, that is). They refer to the plight of the aging artist:

First, the cold friction of expiring sense
Without enchantment, offering no promise
But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit
As body and soul begin to fall asunder.
Second, the conscious impotence of rage
At human folly, and the laceration
Of laughter at what ceases to amuse.
And last, the rending pain of re-enactment
Of all that you have done, and been; the shame
Of motives late revealed, and the awareness
Of things ill done and done to others’ harm
Which once you took for exercise of virtue.
Then fools’ approval stings, and honour stains.
From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit
Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire
Where you must move in measure, like a dancer

Shenandoah Part 3

In the interests of accuracy, should add that Clayton’s is the first recorded version of ‘Shenandoah’ to include the line about ‘the Indian Maiden’. A lot of subsequent versions have included this line – including the version recorded by Bob and the more recent one recorded by Bruce Springsteen.

As I pointed out in a previous post, Clayton’s is my favourite version of the song – followed by those by Paul Robeson & Van Morrison. Dylan’s version doesn’t really do much for me, as he alters – to no great effect – that great tune.

Clayton himself stated that he derived his version from the singing of Stanley Slade, the English folk singer…

Shenandoah, Part 2

With reference to Paul Clayton, I have recently noticed that Bob Dylan’s version of ‘Shenandoah’ could possibly be taken as an oblique tribute to him.

For example, it includes a line that seems to appear only in Clayton’s version of the song, which appears on his album of sea shanties, Whaling and Sailing Songs from the Days of Moby Dick:

Well, a white man loved an Indian maiden

Added to this, it also an interpolated lyric from another song, ‘Sally Brown’, which appears on the same Clayton album:

For seven long years, I courted Sally
Look away, you rollin’ river
Seven more years, I longed to have her

For seven long years I courted Sally
Look away, you rollin’ river
Seven more years I longed to have her

Shenandoah – Clayton Morrison Dylan Robeson

Spent part of yesterday afternoon listening to a number of cover versions of one of my favourite American folk songs, ‘Shenandoah.’ For those interested in the history of the song, there is more information about this here:


Here, my intention is to rank these versionsin terms of which is my favourite. One of the great strengths of the song is the fact that it can work in a variety of interpretations – so another person’s judgement of which is best will probably not be the same as mine.

Will start with what is currently my favourite version of the sing – first, for Paul Clayton’s obvious love and respect for it, but also for the fact that his version tells a story which makes sense of the yrics of the song (as we will see, Bob Dylan uses part of Clayton’s version in his markedly inferior recording of the song). Clayton also brings an unusual melancholy feel to the song, which I find appealing :

Next in my estimation is Paul Robeson’s superbly dignified version, which can be heard here. Should also praise the reat and under-rated piano playing of Lawrence Brown here:

Next up is the Van Morrison version, which I find an on occasionally irritatingly mannered one – but which, nonetheless, is a fine version in its own right:

Last and, at the moment, my least favourite version is by Bob Dylan. One of the glories of ‘Shenandoah’ is that glorious stately melody – which Dylan changes for no good reason that I can see. His singing is also not at its best here – although the backing singers do some great work: