Tom Waits Covers: Lucinda Williams Covers Hang Down Your Head

by Brendan Strong

Lucinda Williams takes this song apart and puts it back together as a mournful, slow number: a feel of (romantic) devastation (and not knowing what you’re going to do next) runs through the whole thing.

I confess it took me a few listens (and I’m a big fan of Lucinda Williams, playing Vicar Street in January), but once it took root, it grew on me fast. Where Waits’ version has a poppier feel (I feel your eyes burning as you read that), Williams takes it very much to a place similar to the sound of her album World Without Tears. It’s an interesting difference: perhaps Waits’ character is full of hope for what might happen next, defiant, moving on (a kind of f- you, if you will) at the end of a relationship; Williams, on the other hand, demands that the relationship, with all that was invested in it, be recognised. It’s not that she isn’t moving on, but that she demands something of this life be kept, remembered and given the dignity it deserves. How in the name of Christ 2 completely different interpretations can come from a lyric, and series of notes says to me: This is genius.

“Hang down your head for sorrow, hang down your head for me, Hang down your head, hang down your head: Hang down your head Marie.”

Next time – Johnny Cash!

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