Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dylan Covers: With God on Our Side

Buddy Miller: With God on Our Side


I will never forget the first time I heard this song. It was one of the most moving musical experiences of my life.

In 2004, I was attending the American Music Conference in Nashville, TN. It was my first time at the conference, and there were many "Wow!" moments that took place that week. I met Steve Earle at the bar at The Mercy Lounge, discussed politics and The Dixie Chicks with Chuck Meade from BR549, and watched in awe as Michelle Shocked and Adrienne Young square danced with each other at The Station Inn as The Avett Brothers stomped and screamed their way around the stage. It was a magical weekend of music to be sure.

The absolute highlight of the weekend, however, was hearing Buddy Miller sing "With God on Our Side" at the Mercy Lounge. I'm not a Dylan historian like some, so I had never heard the song before. I didn't know that it was written over forty years ago... it sounded as though it was ripped from the headlines of the day.

The song is simple in concept... a contemplation on the Glory of God and the atrocities of war and the idea the belief in one somehow justifies the other. In 2004, a time of escalating aggression in Iraq, the topics of God and government, religion and war, were once again heavy points of discussion. This song captures the essence of that debate eloquently and succinctly and forces the listener to ask some tough questions.

Miller's performance of this song on that night came out of the blue and held a room full of artists, industry insiders, and just plain old music fans in rapt attention. It was as powerful a performance as I have ever been witness to. Many in the room were in tears at the end of the song.

I returned home from the conference to find the copy of Miller's Universal United House of Prayer album that had been delivered to the station during the conference. Wisely, Miller included his cover of "With God on Our Side." It was another excellent release from Buddy Miller, and the centerpiece of the album was that song. It came as no surprise to me when Buddy Miller won both Artist of the Year and Album of the Year at the 2005 Americana Music Awards and Honors Show. Nobody who was at the Mercy Lounge the year previous could have voted for anyone else.

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