Songwriting credits are a somewhat debated topic when it comes to The Band. I remember reading once that Robbie Robertson had the biggest part in constructing this one, but I like to think Levon and the rest of the gang did their fair share. The tune takes place in the town of Nazareth (in Pennsylvania) - the home of the Martin Guitar Company - and features a cast of interesting characters encountered around town. Robertson says of the song:
In "The Weight" it was this very simple thing. Someone says, "Listen, would you do me this favour? When you get there will you say 'hello' to somebody or will you give somebody this or will you pick up one of these for me? Oh? You’re going to Nazareth, that’s where the Martin guitar factory is. Do me a favour when you’re there." This is what it’s all about. So the guy goes and one thing leads to another and it’s like "Holy Shit, what’s this turned into? I’ve only come here to say 'hello' for somebody and I’ve got myself in this incredible predicament."
Live, 'The Weight' is absolutely epic. The ever-growing number of verses, multi-part harmonies, and irresistible crowd interaction combine to make the tune a live staple. And not only for The Band. Just check out the Wiki page to see an immense list of folks that have been known to include the The Weight in their sets. The song was a nightly standard at most of the 'Texas Music/Red Dirt' shows I attended throughout high school and college, nearly matching the encore-worthy popularity of Cross Canadian Ragweed's Boys From Oklahoma.
Cover: Cody Canada, et al - The Weight
Cody (of Cross Canadian Ragweed) is joined in an acoustic set by Mike McClure, Stoney LaRue, Jason Boland, and the then just sprouting Ryan Bingham. McClure adds a little comedy when he botches his verse, only to improvise a freestyle rhyme. The performance is highlighted by Stoney's chilling vocals.
The following song (and video) is one I've been studying up on lately, as in less than two weeks, I will head East to Tennessee to catch two performances of The Big Surprise Tour - Old Crow Medicine Show, The Felice Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, all joined on stage by Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings. You couldn't ask for a better folk lineup in today's music world (well maybe if you added The Avetts in there). But more on this later - I plan on doing some kind of pre-road trip post regarding the shows.
Cover: Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings, OCMS - The Weight
I love that these guys take the song back to its roots, slowing it down and revealing the true beauty in the melody. These six folks can make any song sound like it was born out of bluegrass, but it really shines here.
As good as Stoney sounds when he says "and he caught me in the fog" or Willie does when he belts "if you take Jack, my dog," neither gives me the feeling I get when Levon Helm begins The Band's version.
Uncovered: The Band - The Weight
purchase Music From Big Pink (1968)
Uncovered: The Band - The Weight (live at The Palladium, 1976)
More C/U at This Mornin' I Am Born Again:
Cover/Uncovered: Obscure Covers - 10.22.2008
Cover/Uncovered: Slaid Cleaves - 9.30.2008
Cover/Uncovered: Dead Leaves - 9.10.2008
Cover/Uncovered: Mike McClure - 4.26.2008
Cover/Uncovered: II - 3.2.2008
Cover/Uncovered: I - 3.2.2008