I'm not a lyrics guy. I don't pay much attention to the words of a song. There are songs I've heard a million times, that I love with ever ounce of my soul, yet I haven't the slightest idea as to what the words are. There are old church songs that I sang a hundred times growing up that I cold no more quote to you right now than fly to the moon. My wife knows this is true as I'm constantly screwing up the lyrics when I'm singing along to whatever is playing on the stereo. My child knows this is true as I have to make up the lyrics to all the songs I sing to her.
This is strange to me, when I think about it as I love words. I am a voracious reader, a sometimes writer and a great lover of the power of a great turn of phrase. Yet when it comes to songs, I'm all about the tune. My brain focuses on the sounds of a song and not the lyrics. My mind hears the rhthm of the guitars, the thump of the drums, the plinking of a piano and even the elocution of the singer, but it often misses the actual words being sung. I don't know why that is, it just is.
Most of the time.
Sometimes lyrics do jump out at me. This is the case with "Miss Ohio" and the line "I wanna do right, but not right now." I live that line, nearly every day. I suspect most of us do. How often are there things I want to do, that I know I should do, but that I push them off until tomorrow? A day that never comes. Sometimes it seems my whole damn life is one great potential that is never met. Its easy to know what is right, and rather difficult to actually do it.
Gillian Welch knows this. Watch how she sings that line. She's felt it too, that pain of regret, of putting off the right for the right now. David Rawlings knows it as well. He might not be singing the line, but you can hear the regret in his playing. And man, what a great guitarist he turned out to be. The emotion he pulls from those six strings lays it all bear.
No, I'm not really a lyrics guy, but once in awhile someone comes along and pulls out some words in a song that tears me apart and brings me to my knees. "Miss Ohio" is one of those songs, and Gillian Welch is one of those people.