Girl from the North Country

Yesterday, I was browsing around YouTube looking for an official video or audio for a Johnny Cash song from his American IV: The Man Comes Around album when I came upon a duet he did with Bob Dylan on Dylan’s song, “Girl from the North Country Fair.” Like Zucchero and Paul Young singing “Senza una Donna” (please see post on February 12, 2020 for that song), this song is about lamenting a lost love. (I also wonder if it isn’t about losing that love to death: “See for me that her hair’s hangin’ down / If it curls and falls all down her breast / See for me that her hair’s hangin’ down / That’s the way I remember her best.”)

The song was released separately by both artists and others, as well as the Cash/Dylan 1969 duet, which I love and have listened to numerous times since buying it yesterday. There is a sense of the impromptu throughout it, as they sing over each other with slightly different lyrics (see the bracketed parts) and the ending seems a touch awkward, but for me these don’t take away from the song; they make the recording rather unique and irreplaceable, like real life.  If you listen carefully at the very beginning, you can also hear a touch of background noise the microphones pick up, making it seem that much rarer.

“If you’re travelin’ to the north country fair
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Remember me to one who lives there
For she once was a true love of mine

See for me that her hair’s hangin’ down
If it curls and falls all down her breast
See for me that her hair’s hangin’ down
That’s the way I remember her best

If you go when the snowflakes fall
When the rivers freeze and summer ends
Please see for me if she’s wearing a coat so warm
To keep her from the howling winds

If you’re travelin’ in the north country fair
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
(Please say hello) to one who lives there
For she once was a true love of mine

If you’re travelin’ (to) the north country fair
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Remember me to one who lives there
For she once was a true love of mine”

(“Girl from the North Country,” by Bob Dylan — as sung on the official version provided here)

I love the way Dylan enunciates, “…who lives there…” (verse 1) and “…howling winds…” (verse 3).

Back to Cash’s album American IV for a moment — it is an excellent piece of work… on it, he covers Depeche Mode, Simon and Garfunkel,  and Sting. He even does a version of “We’ll Meet Again,” the performance of which by Vera Lynn during World War II made the song famous among soldiers and the families they left behind when going off to battle (and a song I remember hearing in my childhood during 1960s). It’s the only album of Cash’s in my collection.

I’ve never really been a follower of Dylan; can’t explain why, though his songs always evoke rich memories of trips to the beach with one of my brothers when I was a kid. (As an aside, the first couple of chords in this song sound identical to the beginning of Dylan’s magnificent summertime song, “Lay Lady Lay.”) He and another brother travelled to London, UK over a weekend some years ago to see Dylan play there. I think now how mind-blowing that would have been for them, as I recall our family memories with love and gratitude.

Having not been a follower, I foolishly ignored the opportunity to see Dylan when he appeared in Winnipeg a few years ago. I’ve got to stop missing all these shows! (For more on that, please see my January 30, 2020 post where I talk about not having gone to see Wolf Alice or Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds when the opportunities arose.)

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. 

Here’s the official audio from Bob Dylan’s YouTube channel:

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