Last week’s Chain Gang featured a live cut of The Band’s, ‘Rag Mama Rag’. Lead vocalist and drummer with The Band, Levon Helm was the inspiration for the, ‘Love for Levon: Benefit to Save the Barn’ 2012 concert and subsequent album which was a tribute to his life and work. The barn being saved was Helm’s Woodstock barn; the proceeds also went towards maintaining his ‘Midnight Ramble’ concert series held in the same barn. The benefit concert featured artists who had worked with or were influenced by Helm. One of these artists was, John Hiatt who delivered a stirring rendition of ‘Rag Mama Rag’ supported by The All Star band and Mike Gordon.
The same year of the benefit concert, Hiatt had augmented his already prolific discography with the release of his album, ‘Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns’ which featured the beautiful track, ‘Adios to California’. The album version features a full band but the live version featured below pares down the song to just acoustic guitar and vocals. Hiatt wrote the song about his move to Nashville from California, a path well-trodden by many an Americana artist with the difference that on this occasion it was following the suicide of Hiatt’s first wife. The emotional weight of the song is contained within the lines, “Two cigarettes from the package gone, you must have thought about it just that long”