23 November 2010

Your Weekly Dylan Cover [#26]

"You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go"
Shawn Colvin
Original Dylan version found on Blood On The Tracks (1975)

Shawn Colvin was born in Vermillion, South Dakota in 1956 and spent her formative teenage years in the college town of Champaign, Illinois, where she first performed in front of audiences. Colvin would come to the forefront of the so-called "new folk movement" in the late 1980s.

Strongly influenced by Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, she landed a contract with Columbia, and released two very noteworthy albums, Steady On (1989) and Fat City (1992). The former won her a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Recording, and the latter earned her two more nominations.

In 1994, a collection of interpretation of songs written by some of her favorite artists, Cover Girl, was met with decidedly mixed reviews. In retrospect, the set list is more than suited to her strong points: fluid acoustic guitar work and a marvelous, interpretive voice. The closer on the album is Colvin's take on Bob Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go."

The Dylan cover is a courageous choice; the lyric is surely one of the most beautiful and memorable that the author has ever written. Colvin makes it work by stamping the tune with a female perspective and an adventuresome guitar run. (Why she puts the third verse in front of the second, though, I do not know.)

Shawn Colvin's career triumph was yet to come. Her LP A Few Small Repairs would win Record of the Year honors in 1997.


The content of "You're Gonna Make me Lonesome When You Go" lends itself to intense personal memories for many a listener. Perhaps the last word is best left to writer Pete Hamill, who wrote the original liner notes for Blood On The Tracks:

There are some who attack Dylan because he will not rewrite "Like a Rolling Stone" or "Gates of Eden." They are fools because they are cheating themselves of a shot at wonder. Every artist owns a vision of the world, and he shouts his protest when he sees evil mangling that vision. But he must also tell us the vision. Now we are getting Dylan's vision, rich and loamy, against which the world moved so darkly. To enter that envisioned world, is like plunging deep into a mountain pool, where the rocks are clear and smooth at the bottom.

So forget the Dylan whose image was eaten at by the mongers of the idiot wind. Don't mistake him for Isaiah, or a magazine cover, or a leader of guitar armies. He is only a troubadour, blood brother of Villon, a son of Provence, and he has survived the plague. Look: he has just walked into the courtyard, padding across the flagstones, strumming a guitar. The words are about "flowers on the hillside bloomin' crazy/Crickets talkin' back and forth in rhyme..." A girl, red-haired and melancholy, begins to smile. Listen: the poet sings to all of us:

But I'll see you in the sky above,
In the tall grass,
In the ones I love.
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go.

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