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Saturday Song #3

This song came to mind this week for two reasons:

1. This band, one of my favorites, has been posting pictures and video of themselves in the studio working on their 11th album this week.

2. Thursday was St. Patrick's Day and the first graders were all about hunting for leprechauns and four leaf clovers at recess.

That means this week's song can be nothing other than...

"Four Leaf Clover" by Old 97s

Too Far To Care was not my first Old 97s album, but it was my second. I started with Fight Songs in 1999, loved it, and immediately went back to pick up TFTC, which had come out in 1997. Turned out I loved TFTC even more, to the point where it's one of my all-time favorite albums. "Four Leaf Clover" is the last song on the album and takes it out on a great note.

It starts with a bit of feedback and then Philip Peeples brings in a pounding drum attack. After a strum of an electric guitar, Murry Hammond comes in with a fantastic bass line. The song builds from there, of course, but without that combination of the drums and bass working in concert and giving the song an anchor, the rest of it wouldn't be as effective or as great. There's a further element that makes the song great, and it also elevates this version over the original version of the song, which was on their debut album, Hitchhike To Rhome, in 1994: it's a duet. Rhett Miller and Exene Cervenka (from X) give the song a sexy update and sing the hell out of it to boot.

The first verse is Rhett's...

I've got a four leaf clover
And it ain't done one single lick of good
I'm still a drunk, I'm still a loser
Living in a lousy neighborhood

The second verse is Exene's...

I've got a real live horseshoe
And I hung it upside down above my door
But it don't do nothing to attract you
So I don't know what the hell it's for

Then together...

Why don't you come over
I'll show you my four leaf clover
(Rhett) Who am I trying to kid
I'm not the kind of guy you go for
(Both again) I've got a four leaf clover
I ain't got no home to give to you

There's a little scream from Rhett and then Ken Bethea starts wailing away on the guitar, underscored by Peeples bashing the drums with a one-two-three and Hammond's bass still holding everything down. You want to simultaneously air guitar and air drum and groove to the bass. It's a freight train of a rock song already. And then we go back to Rhett...

I got a lucky silver dollar
My grandaddy gave it to me, now he's dead
Times like this I wish that I could join him
Might just stop this pounding in my head

We get a little pause in the music here, mostly just the bass bouncing up and down with a little bit of hit-hat so you can feel the beat and the interplay between the bass and beat. It's so important to get moments like these in songs, because it makes the band crashing back into the chorus that much sweeter. Here comes that freight train again - Ken's screaming guitar mixing with Rhett's wordless screams while the rhythm section just plows on ahead. They finish strong and led the song fade out on feedback for the last 20 seconds, punctuating it with a couple finishing notes on the guitar.

It's a song of longing and desperation and frustration played by a band that knows how to rock. What more do you need from music?

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