As part of my effort to expose humanity to underappreciated music, I’ve previously written about what I think are really good songs that haven’t received their due attention. These things are, of course, subject to taste. But if you’ve discovered by way of my previous posts or social media comments that your taste and mine might play in the same ballpark, then you may enjoy the song I’m going to tell you about now. At the bottom of this post you’ll find a link to it on YouTube.
Blue is a song written by Mark Olson and Gary Louris, and it was a part of the album Tomorrow the Green Grass, released in 1995 by their band, The Jayhawks. The single reached number 33 in Canada. I discovered the song not by visiting the Great White North, but by having it rain down on me from the speakers in the ceiling of a Lowes store, circa 2004. In the days before Shazam, it took me a while to learn the name of the song and who performed it, but I eventually did.
I learned that the version I heard while shopping for paint and fertilizer was not performed by the Jayhawks, but by The Thorns, a trio comprised of three interesting fellows whose solo work I’d admired: Pete Droge, Shawn Mullins, and Matthew Sweet.
I was really only familiar with Pete Droge perhaps the way many are, but may not realize. His song, If You Don’t Love Me (I’ll Kill Myself), appeared in the movie, Dumb and Dumber, and provided the backdrop when Harry drilled Mary in the face with a snowball from only a shadow’s distance. That song has had a home in my Itunes library for several years. Shawn Mullins’ Lullaby from 1998 was all over the radio, but I think many people, including me, want to call it Rockaby, as that’s the most prominent word in its hooky chorus. Matthew Sweet is a veteran in the music industry and gained popularity with his catchy song Girlfriend in the early nineties.
Each member of the Thorns had successful solo careers but got together in 2003 and graced us with only one album, self-titled, before going their separate ways again. A shame only one. I bought that CD back in 2004 and have the single of Blue in my Itunes library now because I tend to be pretty rough on my CDs. The Thorns version of Blue is a beautifully produced blend of acoustic and electric guitars, with just an echo of a swirly little organ in the pre-chorus. The Jayhawks rendition is equally special, with emphasis on the acoustic guitars, piano, and strings that subtly fill in the gaps the way sweet tea surrounds the ice in a tall cold glass.
The vocal harmonies by both bands, however, are what stand out. There’s something very special about a song that can show you its yearning and share its aching with you. Hats off to both bands and especially the songwriters, who out of complete silence bring about art.
Without further ado.