Spare guitar strums and dobro lines introduce Amy Ray’s exultant ode to the nightingales and the mystic power of the night. The sparse opening blossoms into Ray’s meditative lyrics—“even a sad song is better than no song at all”—which serve as a theme through the song as she reflects on the sad songs of the night birds, Chuck-will’s-widow and the Whip-poor-will, and the ways that those songs nevertheless inspire her own songwriting: “I get lost and sad and lonely and I count the stars above/I sing when I should be sleeping.” The sparse opening ripples out into an exuberant and jubilant wave of sound as pedal steel, dobro, guitar, mandolin, and accordion circle around one another as Michelle Malone and the War and Treaty move the song onto a higher plane with their glorious harmonies. While there are hints of melancholy riding through the song, the buoyant, lilting strains of the accordion and those joyous harmonies makes us forget them momentarily.
As Amy Ray reflects, “the song was inspired by the bird Chuck-will’s-widow and its cousin the Whip-poor-will. Their songs sounds like their names and they both sing incessantly. There are lots of stories about how Chuck-will’s-widow and the Whip-poor-will got their names, like maybe “poor Will” is indeed the Chuck Wills who left his wife widowed. Their relentless compelling exchange happens at night when the summer comes to my neck of the woods. Typically I stay up late, and it’s a time when I tend to sing a lot and write songs then. I find that I witness the most profound moments in the midst of the songs of these birds, when everyone else is asleep.”
“Chuck Will’s Widow” is available on 7/23 – pre-order/pre-save HERE.