Sure, it’s nice to hear Lucinda Williams adding her voice to the album version of the title track. The original demo, however, bristles with a simmering tension that isn’t as prevalent on the album. In a further peek behind the artistic curtain, Gordon also includes an earlier version which was then titled “Mississippi River Burning Down”.
Of course, the real story here is the brilliance of Gordon’s songwriting. As Down to the Well: Solo Demos Unearthed exemplifies, the combination of Gordon’s storytelling and Louisiana musical flair shines regardless of the instrumentation and arrangement.
Here’s the original demo as well as a recent live video performance. Listen closely and you’ll hear some lyrical differences between the two versions.
About a year ago, while digging through the dusty piles, er, “archives,” I found an unlabeled cassette without a case. I put it on to hear what was there. Turns out there were about 15 tracks—all solo demos I’d made in the Fall of ’99, when preparing to record the Down to the Well album–we’d booked studio sessions for later that November & early December. I transferred the recordings from the tape to a hard drive and listened on my good speakers. Considering my nearly absolute ignorance of recording techniques back then, I was amazed at how well it all held up. I had one microphone, dented and scarred from years of club gigs, plugged into a guitar effects pedal (a Boss “analog delay” that I still use). I then ran a cord from the pedal into a home stereo cassette deck. The tape I had found was what captured the humbly-transmitted signal of my voice and acoustic guitar, howling and plucking away at the group of mostly new songs being considered for the Well album.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.