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Songs You Should’ve Heard: “Louisville” by the Damnwells

Cory Huffman returns with another analysis of a song you should have heard.
There was a moment, not too terribly long ago, where I found myself driving along Indiana Highway 54 on an early March day in quiet Greene County, somewhere between Switz City and Bloomfield. I hadn’t yet crossed the White River, I know that much. The scenery to my nine and three consisted of open fields that surrendered to woods, only to renege back to open fields.

I still do this sometimes – just get in the car and drive. It’s my way of clearing my head and refocusing on the things that truly matter in this life. Miles upon miles of unadulterated blacktop can be therapeutic in a way unlike any other.

But, it was on this drive, along this stretch of asphalt that I had a waking dream scripted from some past life. My thoughts were accompanied by a bliss inducing song – rather a four minute film noir – that resonated in me with ironic parallelism.

The song in mention, “Louisville”, is a track by the Brooklyn based band The Damnwells, off of their 2006 second full-length record Air Stereo.

Think somewhere between The Replacements and Wilco, with a healthy shake of Whiskeytown peppered throughout and you’ve got The Damnwells. Americana at its finest, “Louisville” being a textbook example track.

Narrated by lead singer Alex Dezen, “Louisville” plunges listeners smack dab in the middle of life on the road. Dezen’s sincere and tattered voice, appearing on the verge of unravelling at any moment, delivers lyrics that are both poignant and vulnerable.

I never wanted to get you down or start you up
I tried to bet on your winsome frown with sad Irish luck
I never thought you would wake me up and take me out
I wanted to feel anything from you
Even a handsome doubt

The Damnwells' Alex Dezen. Photo: Public Domain.
The Damnwells’ Alex Dezen.
Photo: Public Domain.

Reminiscent, sad, and soaked honestly in nostalgic hunger, “Louisville” plays itself out like a lyrical ode set to Kerouac’s’ On the Road in 4/4 time.

The slide guitar plays beautifully, like a nightingale’s whistle from a Bronte’ novel, while Dezen allows us a provocative look at what life’s like away from the something we love the most. A woman? A city or place? Doesn’t matter because we understand and are already emotionally vested. We have already conjured up the ghosts that haunt our memory. The nostalgic longing has found a way to drip into our hearts through the pin-hole we would have sworn was too small to let anything seep into. It almost feels as if Dezen has stolen a page from your personal diary and rewritten the words more eloquently than you ever thought to write.

I wanna trade in Friday nights
For a piece of your heart

You know that feeling. That deeper-than-we’d-like-to-admit emotion that shoots through our very core. That feeling where we’d give anything – everything – just to be with that particular someone. Yeah, that feeling. The same one that makes certain breaths hitch longer than others.

All I wanted was going home
All they gave me was Louisville
I don’t want love or conquered Rome
Just your voice and a sleeping pill

When a song can literally wrench you from your current reality, and concurrently place you in a still frame from a past memory, you damn well know that it’s a good song. That’s exactly what The Damnwells “Louisville” did to me…because I let it.

With my head finally clear and my chest welling with the feeling that my heart might burst into a thousand dazzling red lights sprinkled against a vacant canvas, I navigated my way back home toward Louisville.

About Cory Huffman

Cory Huffman teaches English and social studies in Southern Indiana. Besides his penchant for good bands and music, he is also a writer for Indiana on Tap and an avid Cincinnati Bearcats fan.

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One comment

  1. Excellent writing and a solid song as well. This genre of music tends to be conducive to introspection. This is in large part because the construct of Americana serving as the music of the everyman, simply beautiful.

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