Many of us at some stage will have had that hypothetical question about if you were stuck on a desert island what would you take with you. In a similar vein I will be sharing all the songs that I would put in my own personal jukebox, not necessarily to take to a desert island, you understand, but just the many songs that would make me sad should I never hear them again. In order to make things a little interesting I’m going to permit myself just one song from each group or singer, which will be something of a test but one I’ll embrace. I hope you enjoy some of my choices and would be intrigued to hear selections from your own personal jukebox, these days MP3s or iPods, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me on this occasion.
The Decemberists – Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then) (2006)
The third track on one of the best albums I’ve ever heard, The Crane Wife (2006), The Decemberists’ Yankee Bayonet is a duet between Colin Meloy and Laura Veirs who provides some memorable guest vocals. Meloy takes on the perspective of a soldier in the midst of what appears to be the American Civil War while Veirs is the woman at home, presumably his wife, waiting for him to come back.
The opening lines manage to sum up the premise of the song, “Heart-carved tree trunk, Yankee bayonet, a sweetheart left behind.” Through the two perspectives we are given not just the soldier’s image of the horrors of war but of his lonely lover who is lost without him. At one point there is a moment of nostalgia as the couple think back to their childhood and their first sight of each other at a fair.
Though a love song there is poignancy as well with the chorus revealing how this story has played out, “But when the sun breaks, to no more bullets in Battlecreek, then will you make a grave, for I will be home then.” The soldier has unfortunately not survived the war, leaving a pregnant widow behind, but the song does end with some hope for the soldier professes that he will always be with his love. This is the best I’ve heard from the brilliant Decemberists and if you haven’t had the pleasure of any of their music before reading this then are many more gems to discover, I promise you.
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