Organ Rainstorms. Gateway Drugs (The Motherless Child Soundtrack Project, Part 3)

Dwight YoakamA Thousand Miles from Nowhere

In Motherless Child, this is the song Natalie and Sophie hear upon entering the Back Way Out, a faux-hipster joint in suburban Charlotte where they eventually meet the Whistler. To Natalie, it signifies only that the anonymous performer has better– less faux– taste than the Back Way Out norm.

To me, it’s less a great song than a great verse– half-verse, really– in an aural house of mirrors, reflecting itself into infinity. The chorus is a throwaway, not a yodel, barely even a sigh. The grand theme is stasis, not doom. Unless it’s doom-by-stasis.

But that verse. “I’m a thousand miles from nowhere/time don’t matter to me.” Followed by the quietly devastating payoff: “And there’s no place I want to be.” Elvis hopping the mystery train this isn’t. No traveling over mountains. Very possibly no traveling at all, because why bother?

Plus gushing rainstorms of organ. Plus slow lightning-flashes of lit-up guitar.

Okay, maybe it is a great song.

I heard Dwight Yoakam first in 1986, my working-at-the-record-store summer, when I was still too Wire-d (as in the band), still too much talking head and too little talking heart, to get country music at all. But Yoakam– Nashville ex-pat, pal of Blasters and Lobos, bad-ass Stetson wearer– seemed a perfect gateway drug into a music I’d previously dismissed, because I had neither need nor frame of reference for it yet.

In some ways–like the great majority of the No Depression/alt-country artists he clearly inspired– he still sounds that way to me. Like a gateway drug. Not quite one thing (ferocious, rib-rattling rocker) nor the other (soulful, rueful late-night companion).

Or maybe that’s me.

Or maybe he just never produced another super-moon of a song quite so blinding-bright as this one.