My Top 1000 Songs #506: Sandusky

 [I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

I've largely avoided instrumentals on the list (this appears to be the 4th, and possibly last, inclusion, unless I go on another Eno jag). After all, this is a list of rock & roll songs, and the words are a big part of rock & roll. So it takes something particularly magical to elevate a wordless composition into these ranks.

But "Sandusky" is absolutely magical. It's admittedly odd to elevate an instrumental from Uncle Tupelo, which boasted one of the most distinctive vocalists of Americana (if not indie rock) in Jay Farrar, as well as stellar songwriting from both Farrar and Jeff Tweedy. Yet "Sandusky" is probably the Tupelo song I've spent the most time with over the years. Like the rest of the terrific, homespun March 16-20, 1992 LP, it's an acoustic, folk/Americana tune; there's some light guitar finger-picking with mandolin, a simple recurring motif with a twangy, unforgettable string-bend. Nothing flashy, almost ambient, and doesn't necessarily go anywhere; yet it's thoroughly transportive, a tune where you can close your eyes and find yourself gently drifting down the river, the sun slowly setting, cottonwood trees blowing slightly in the breeze on the banks of the Mississippi. If I were a filmmaker, I'm certain I'd find a way to insert this into every soundtrack, the tune as thematically evocative as any far more direct lyrical piece.
Electric live version (audio only):
A lovely live cover from the Dixie Dix: