"...been wadin' through the high muddy water"
Andrew Bird / Soldier On
Andrew Bird's marvelous cover of Bob Dylan's "Oh Sister,"
from Dylan's album Desire, fulfills the official Muddy Water Dylan-Cover Requirement of recasting the song in a totally new light. The song begins sounding a lot like the chords of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," but then violins and whistling enter the picture. A sweet harmony voice sings the whole song in tandem with Bird, and the lead instrument in between verses is supplied by Bird, his whistling - a lovely little circular repeating phrase.
Any song with good whistling in it is completely endearing to me,
I must admit. John Lennon has done some great whistling.
It might have originated with me in that passage in Catcher in the Rye where Holden talks about the fellow student at Pencey Prep
who was otherwise an ordinary kid in Holden's eyes, but could whistle beautifully, like a jazz musician. I agree with Salinger that whistling can be a musical art. Anyway, the whistling contributes to the relaxed feel of the song, which in Bird's hands isn't the strident exhortation it was in Dylan's, but instead a sweet entreaty. The orchestration is light and just right for the song, keeping the mood winsome and welcoming. Bird experiments in Americana, bringing into the 21st Centruy with technology attached, incorporating disparate elements to make something very original and sophisticated. He's an important figure in music, working at a complex level in combining musical elements and devilishly clever lyric wordplay. "Oh Sister" is a bit of a toss-off compared with the other songs on Soldier On - still a wonderfully unique treatment
of an overlooked Dylan song.
Muddy Water Magazine
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