AUK’s Chain Gang: Lee Ann Womack “The Weight”

Jay Joyce is a reasonably well-travelled producer, a talented multi-instrumentalist and occasional songwriter who is perhaps, given his record, best suited to the first two of these activities rather than the third. He has worked with some cracking artists, some of our fav’s in fact cf. Radney Foster, Patty Griffin, John Hiatt, Emmy-Lou and Gillian Welch as well as outside the genre with Iggy and Brendan Benson for example. Whilst he may not have been a part of the very finest work from any of these artists that’s still a potent career by anyone’s yardstick. Included in this list is the Brothers Osborne for whom he produced their 2017 LP ‘Port Saint Joe‘.

Those frisky Osborne boys and their celebration of ‘Weed, Whiskey and Willie’ featured as the previous link in our tiny but growing chain. As any of us who have had a night like that can attest, the thing we want most afterwards is some place we can lay our head and if that comes with someone who can take the load off for a bit, perfect. Seems then like ‘The Weight’ might be a good place to make our next stop and it just so happens that Mr Joyce of the first paragraph has got his fingerprints all over a pretty decent rendition of that very tune.

He produced and played a bunch of instruments on the version Lee Ann Womack cut for the 2007 Tribute LP ‘Endless Highway – The Music of the Band’. Whilst this may not be the best version of the song ever it’s a good effort; more sparse than usual and perhaps less soulful but it does have a certain brittle charm all of its own. Either way, it’s significantly better than the versions by Garth Brookes, Eric Church and Travis!

So there we have it then a connection from ‘Weed, Whiskey and Willie’ to ‘The Weight’ courtesy of a common producer and a much less AUK appropriate link between the nomenclature of the protagonists of the two songs – you didn’t really think I was going to pass that one up, surely?!

A final paragraph for full disclosure then: the connection is genuine but really I wanted to find a way to highlight the finest ever version of this song. In fact, quite possibly the most transcendent and life-affirming 4 minutes and 47 seconds of music ever preserved for posterity. It’s not appropriate to put the link but next time you have 5 spare minutes, try a quick YouTube search for ‘Mavis Staples, Wilco, The Weight’ and wonder why you’ve not spent the last 8 years watching the result and if you’re familiar with it already, I guess you have spent the time doing just that.

Author: Guy Lincoln

I’m a waning academic and hesitant PhD student taking on reviewing as a way to engage with something more meaningful. I’ve loved this Americana stuff since before it was even alt-country, so it’s time to see if I can communicate this feeling beyond my affective imaginings (I'm trying to escape from pseud's corner too!).

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