Greetings from the mountains of Tar Heel country. This place is a hotbed of good tunes, including some true mountain music. Here’s a sampling of what’s cooking on our Spotify playlist:
Night Train: Yes, this is one of my cover-all songs in this state-by-state song bingo game. James Brown mentions a dozen different locales in this great song—amongst them Raleigh, North Carolina. The song must go somewhere though, so it’s home is now the Tar Heel State.
Cornbread and Butterbeans: Years ago, when I first entered the doctoral program, I met a guy who would turn out to be a good friend, Jonathan Bradshaw. Jonathan had come to Ohio from Boone, North Carolina and he raved about a band that was making it big where he came from called The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Coincidentally, I had Dylan tickets for that week and the very next day I learned that Mark Knophler had once again cancelled (four different times I had expected to see Mark open for Dylan and four times I was denied). But this time it was for the better because, my god, the Chocolate Drops were phenomenal. Absolute showstopper. And that evening at least, they were better than Dylan. Then, last night, I we were sitting around Jonathan’s dinner table here in the mountains of North Carolina, years removed from that concert, chatting with his dinner guest—a renowned folklorist at Appalachian State—and the Drops once again came up in conversation. It must be fate, my friends. So here’s a great tune that mentions the state where they all met.
Little Sadie: Both Miracle and I are completely over the “I shot my lady” songs, but few Dylan songs mention North Carolina and this one fits the bill. The original Dylan version came off the much-derided Self-Portrait, which Rolling Stone famously reviewed with the opening line of “What is this shit?” Years later, Columbia would release a Bootleg Series album where they remastered and took demos and everything they could think of to reimagine the disastrous album. The result is marginally better. (Come on, Bootleg Series—give us something tasty, not reprocessed junk! Give us the Supper Club recordings!) At any rate, here’s the better of the two versions.