I just began to catch up with Jian Ghomeshi’s Q (podcast edition), and of course had to grab the one where he visited Portland. The politics, culture and topics discussed on the show seem a perfect fit with the notoriously hip town. The fact that tipped me over to that episode first, however, was the fact that Colin Meloy, of my favourite band The Decemberists*, would be performing. Little did I know that he would actually be debuting a new song (that he wrote that morning, no less!) It is, of course, everything I love about his songwriting, especially that displayed on the Long Live the King EP, which is the Decembs most recent output.
“Carolina Low”, much like “E. Watson” and “Burying Davy” before it, are starting to build a subcategory in their oeuvre of these minor-key rambling ballads, that sound very much like they emanate from the 19th-century hills and mountains of America, both in tune and narrative. It’s very much the other side of the coin from their jauntier work a la “The Legionnaire’s Lament” or “The Chimbley Sweep”, which still told detail-oriented stories, but just seemed to do more reveling in the fact that they were being told. These days, Meloy seems to get right behind those eyes and grab at the emotions, the toil and the daily hardships (see also, “Rox in the Box”), with melodies richer and more sombre. It seems that he is hearkening back to some of the older traditional folk tunes (a la “Roving Gambler”, “Blues Run the Game” or even “House of the Rising Sun” before the Animals got ahold of it) and attempting to add his own to the canon, much in the way that some modern classical composers do.
If this is pointing towards a further direction for what Meloy announced would be the band’s upcoming album, or even if he releases a folk album solo, I will be very happy indeed.
*Yes, I also claim Van der Graaf Generator as my favourite band. No, it’s not any others. Just those two. For different reasons.