Nickel Creek: Tomorrow Is A Long Time
Tomorrow is a Long Time was first recorded for the famous (and permanently bootlegged) Witmark Demos in 1963, but the only officially released version is a live recording on Dylan's 1971 Greatest Hits Vol II collection; by then, thanks to early distribution of the Witmark Demos, the song had already been turned from its original delicate campfire ballad to something with a little too much saccharine by such mid-sixties unlikelies as Odetta, Elvis, and Ian and Sylvia. As such there is no real definitive version, and -- since by definition originals are usually considered to be the first official recording -- some confusion in my mind over whether or not this is a cover at all.
Happily, not all "covers" of this song misunderstand its intent so badly. Something about the odd extra-measured trope and rhythm of this older Dylan song has attracted some of my favorite folk artists at their best, from Nick Drake to Sandy Denny to Rosalie Sorrels. And, as with so many Dylan covers, there's still more to discover -- for example, I've recently encountered the below version by the Greek folk-pop singer Nana Mouskouri, and think the light freakfolk touch and etherial, high-vibrato vocals are worth passing along, especially for those who have yet to encounter her work.
But going back through the forty-odd years of this song's existence, none of the covers i have heard hold a candle to the delicate newgrass ballad that Nickel Creek makes of it.
Cover or not, this may be one of my favorite Nickel Creek songs ever. It demonstrates effortlessly just how mature and tightly delivered their sound became in the end, before they decided they were ready to move on. Sara Watkins' fragile, breathy voice on lead is perfect for the sentiment; the mandolin and guitar mix is ringing and airy; make sure you stick around for the lovely fiddle and mando duet.
More, however, I think the song actually speaks to the kind of regret and readiness that the band members, who formed their band in their teens, must have been feeling as they saw the horizon of solo projects and self-reliance approaching. Placed at the very heart of Why Should The Fire Die, their final album before breaking up to pursue solo projects, the song is a perfect bittersweet harbinger of their impending dissipation, and an equally powerful reminder of why their star shot so high, and so quickly, before choosing to go out in that blaze of glory.
Nana Mouskouri: Tomorrow Is A Long Time