It’s time for a reckoning of the best Gillian Welch songs, in album order.
1. “Pass You By”–Starting with the chug of the music and the cocky smoothness of the singer and going straight through the fact that she drives an “old V-I from the year I was born” this song is just beautiful and menacing in ways that please me.
2. “Caleb Meyer”–It’s frightening and there’s a ghost and there’s a way that the guitar part is menacing with the amount of notes in the song. It’s hard to explain, but this is as close as they come to a heavy metal song, I think.
3. “Elvis Presley Blues”–This song will literally tell you everything you need to know to understand Elvis. It’s a song about magic, how it’s done in our culture, about one of our greatest practitioners. They linking of it with the myth of John Henry is just… ugh… so brilliant I about die of jealousy every time I think about it.
4. “Wrecking Ball”–“Look at Miss Ohio” has that one genius lyric–“I want to do right, but not right now,” but I think “Wrecking Ball” is overall better. It’s like the 70s and old timey music had a baby and here it is, heading toward the wall, like a… well… you know the words. Plus that line about being a little Deadhead hits me right in the heart, even though I never was.
5. “Tennessee” Oh, holy god, how do you go on not loving this song after he presses his whiskers to her cheek?
Extra! I assume we all know why. (Hint: It’s the greatest country song ever, hands down, don’t even fight me on it.)