The interlopers are turned out of her bed, but our heroine still can’t find a moment of rest
Perhaps because I am sleep deprived and maybe even a little dissatisfied, I have no resources to defend myself from the anguished top notes in Dylan’s “Moonshiner.” I discover this as I’m walking out into the fields behind work to clear my head. There’s a paved path back there that the grass has completely broken through, just crumbled the asphalt with its green and gentle persistence. I’m listening to the bootlegs, volumes 1-3 and as I steady myself to take a photo and Dylan sings “God bless them pretty women. How I wish they was mine,” I realize my eyes are shut. Because in the hierarchy of notes you have to close your eyes for, that sustained “wish” is the king.
I’ve heard some pretty remarkable versions of this tune. Chan Marshall’s for one. It’s breathier and sounds a bit more fatigued. The rhythm of the guitar is dirgey but I like hearing the lyrics sung in a female voice for a change, since in my experience it’s always been men having a love affair with booze while their women scramble around trying to figure out where the money has gone. Kristian Matsson of The Tallest Man on Earth does a brilliant cover. His picking is a little more complicated and graceful. His voice, uniquely sweet. But both versions lack the ragged teeth of a real drunk in pursuit of a deep oblivion. I can hear it in Dylan’s version, in the long flat draws on his harmonica, the downhill gait of his pick and especially, precisely, in the sustained note he hits on the word “wish.”
Right now I am a perfect storm of hunger and exhaustion and desire, vibrating at the exact pitch of that sustained note. It’s a knuckle in the sorest part of the back where you keep all your trouble. Or a tongue over the torn, coppery flesh of an empty tooth socket. Or an ill-advised, open-mouthed kiss. All of which are similar in the way they connect you to your viscera. All of which force the eyes to flutter shut.