Jesse Jarnow

“the mountain low” – palace music

“The Mountain Low” – Palace Music (download here)
from Viva Last Blues (1995)
released by Drag City (buy)

(file expires on May 9th.)

I’m a sucker for a good first line anywhere, be it a novel or a newspaper or a song, and — holy “Bob” — does Will Oldham’s “The Mountain Low” have one. “If I could fuck a mountain,” Oldham sings, “Lord, I would fuck a mountain.”

“There are so many ways you can go at something in a song,” Bob Dylan told Robert Hillburn last year. “One thing is to give life to inanimate objects. Johnny Cash is good at that. He’s got the line goes, ‘A freighter said, “She’s been here, but she’s gone, boy, she’s gone.”‘ That’s great. ‘A freighter says, “She’s been here.”‘ That’s high art. If you do that once in a song, you usually turn it on its head right then and there.”

Oldham twists it from the start. After that, the song settles down into lyrics and a fantastic melody that are basically folk music (or anti-folk or whatever you wanna call a boho duder with an acoustic guitar these days). But that first line just hangs over the song, and informs what’s essentially just a lovely strum with a general sense of dirty, surreal unease.


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