The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Friday, February 8, 2013

Old Rain Songs

I know there's a big blizzard headed to New York and New England, and the Chicago Tribune says the Windy City will get five inches of snow tonight. Winter in Tennessee, however, usually means rain.

The last couple of days have been sunny, but, as I said, it's winter and it's Tennessee, so the rain is coming...in about an hour actually. From midnight till morning the cold rain will be falling.

Be patient with me now, I'm fixin' to ramble a bit.


That weather forecast started me thinking about rain songs and wondering how many of those water soaked lyrics have been written over the years. I'm not talking here about using the word "rain" in a line or two, I'm talking about rain all through the song, or a verse, or, at least, as a major motif or theme or image.

There have been lots of them. Many memorable ones. All of those on the list below except the last two popped into my head as I was writing. I suspect Goggling would turn up quite a few more. You who are reading this right now are probably thinking of a couple I didn't mention.

Singin' in the Rain
Hard Rain's Gonna Fall
In the Early Mornin' Rain
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
Who'll Stop the Rain?
Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head
Kentucky Rain
I Love a Rainy Night
Listen to the Rain
November Rain
Rain

Rain falls in Bluegrass Music too. Some of the truly classic bluegrass songs have used rain as a major theme.

This first song is my favorite country/bluegrass song. Really I suppose it's my favorite song period. "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight." It was written by the great Johnny Bond, but it's become a part of our family's history, part of my history.

I remember those Christmases in the '70s when Joyce's whole family (all six siblings and their kids) would come home to her parents' house. Her younger brother Mark was in his late teens and early 20s then and had learned to play the guitar. We practiced a couple of songs over and over and almost drove the other family members crazy. One of the songs was CCR's "Lodi" (for a future post) and the other was "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight." Mark and I would sing and sometimes Joyce would join it harmonizing. We had such great fun doing that. Great fun. Even though it was usually raining outside, we had a roaring fire and there was cake and pie and coffee. And music. Lots of music.

Mark's gone now, he passed away unexpectedly in 1999 in his forties. But I still remember those great times and our duets on "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight." If there is heaven and a Deity, especially One who digs old bluegrass songs, I know where Mark is tonight.

I enjoy "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight" so much I'm posting two versions of it. The first is in the true up tempo bluegrass style and it's sung by a great group called the Cluster Pluckers. They've been around since the early '80s, and three original members of the group are still playing: Margaret Bailey, Kris Ballinger, and Dale Ballinger. The video isn't dated, but I would guess late '80s - early '90s.

Like in most bluegrass songs, the fast tempo becomes an emotional counterpoint to the heartache. In this song the cold, slowly falling rain underscores the loneliness of the singer and reminds her of how cold hearted the bastard was who left her. He treated her mean but she can't get him our of her mind.

This time, the rain falls in the chorus and it's used as a metaphor for her ex's cold heart and even colder love. In the fast versions of this song, I love that split second between the last line of the verse and the beginning line of the chorus. This is a crude comparison, but if the musicians do it right (and the Cluster Pluckers do it mighty fine), the guitars and other instruments sound almost like an automatic hemi shifting into what we used to call "passing gear." Like I said, crude. But I hope you get the point. What I feel the music say at that precise point is, "listen up, this is about to get damn serious here."
The rain is cold and slowly falling
Upon my window pane tonight.
And though your love is even colder
I wonder where you are tonight.

Here's another great version of the song that I found while foraging on Youtube. It's by the great Johnny Rodriguez, who slows the song down and turns it into a ballad, complete with a verse in Spanish. This is from a Hee Haw show in '73.


Okay, last rain song coming up. If you like Bluegrass, you've heard of Rhonda Vincent. I believe this is one of her first recorded songs; it's "I'm Not Over You." The rain in the first verse is an intensifier, it adds to the speaker's heartache. The falling rain is compared to the tears she's crying and then becomes a storm of emotion which blows full force into the chorus.

Tonight the rain that's falling
only adds to my heartache
It runs quietly down my window
Like the tears upon my face
And each time the lightning flashes
And I hear the thunder roar
I'm reminded of the closing of the door
Chorus:
I'm not over you
the storm still rages
The waves of pain remind me
That we're through
I'm slowly drowninG
In a sea of endless heartbreak
I'm going under
'Cause I'm not over you


It's a little after midnight now and I just checked the weather radar. The big band of rain (no storms, thank goodness) stretches from Owensboro, Kentucky, down through Clarksville and Jackson, Tennessee, and is moving this way. Guess it's time to sign off now and climb in bed. Our bedroom is on the second floor and the ceiling angles up with the roof line so I can hear the muffled raindrops falling as I go to sleep. Night y'all.

2 comments:

  1. ... the Cluster Pluckers.

    Heh. The BEST band name I've seen in a good long while. I like their version of "I Wonder" best, as well.

    Rhonda Vincent's guitar player sure gets a lot outta his instrument, making it sound like a mandolin AND a dobro, too. I'm impressed. ;-)

    While we're on the subject: My favorite rain song.

    Lastly: Check your hotmail account, you have a couple of notes from me about commenting.

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  2. Ain't that a great name!
    I like "Rainy Night in GA" too, surprised I didn't think of it. The Benton version is great and was probably what I heard first; Ray Charles' version came later.
    Also, I sent a response to your email regarding the comment problem; knock on wood, but so far I don't seem to be having that problem on the Post.

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