Song of the Day #420: ‘Since the Last Time’ – Lyle Lovett

joshuajudgesAnd His Large Band was the album that introduced me to Lyle Lovett, but Joshua Judges Ruth was the first of his albums released after I was already a fan. I find that those are usually important albums in an artist’s discography… two milestones that help shape my fandom.

For instance, if Lovett’s first new album had been a letdown, would my admiration for him have waned? I know I’ve been let down by the first new release of many an artist over the years. In Lovett’s case, no need to worry. Joshua Judges Ruth is as strong, if not stronger, than Large Band.

Cleverly named after three consecutive books in the Bible, Joshua Judges Ruth was Lovett’s least country album yet, and the one that had record stores scratching their heads over exactly where his records should live. Only one track is an old-fashioned country song, the also cleverly-titled ‘She’s Leaving Me Because She Really Wants To.’

The rest are a mix of gospel, blues, jazz, rock and mood music. Powerful dirge ‘She’s Already Made Up Her Mind’ wouldn’t feel out of place on a Peter Gabriel album. ‘All My Love is Gone’ is torch music at its sax-drenched best. ‘Church’ is a fabulous gospel free-for-all about a preacher who refuses to leave the pulpit while his parishioners long for some homemade cooking.

My favorite track is ‘Since the Last Time,’ which shares that gospel sound and spirit but takes it to a whole other level. It’s a song about death, and about the people left behind. It starts out with the memorable line “I went to a funeral, and Lord it made me happy.”

Then he clarifies things with the follow-up line: “Seeing all those people I ain’t seen since the last time somebody died.” And doesn’t that just make a whole lot of sense? What’s the old saying… weddings and funerals? That’s when you see all those people your life keeps you from seeing in normal times.

The song takes a lot of twists and turns from there, including an eruption of ‘Hallelujah!’s that practically demands you leap out of your chair, before coming back to those opening lines… only this time the funeral is his own.

I went to a funeral
Lord it made me happy
Seeing all those people
I ain’t seen
Since the last time
Somebody died

Everybody talking
They were telling funny stories
Saying all those things
They ain’t said
Since the last time
Somebody died

But you take a look around you
Don’t it seem like something’s missing
I said something that weren’t missing
Lord the last time
Somebody died

You took him from the last time
To that hallowed ground
I’m praying take me to the next time Lord
So I can hang around

Then the people start to looking
And some of them start crying
And all the little children
Lord they’re scared
Because they ain’t never seen
A dead man before

You took him from the last time
To that hallowed ground
I’m praying take me to the next time Lord
So I can hang around

He’s swimming through that Jordan
Going to the other side
But if it’s all the same to you Lord
I think I’ll stay dry

Now it’s church on Sunday
It’s a bar on Friday night
It’s work on Monday
The preacher Lord you know he might sing

Hallelujah
Sing hallelujah
Sing hallelujah
Sing hallelujah

He’s got church on Sunday
And he got drunk the night before
And he got his good gal when he got home
The preacher said he wants some more of that

Hallelujah
Sing hallelujah
Sing hallelujah
Sing hallelujah

Now if you want to get to heaven
Let me tell you what to do
You better grease your foot up buddy
With that mutton stew
And when the devil comes after you
With them greasy hands
You just slide on over to the promised land

Sing hallelujah
Sing hallelujah
Sing hallelujah
Sing hallelujah

Now there was two little imps
And they was black as tar
And they was trying to get to heaven
In an electric car
And that car wheel slipped
On down the hill
Instead of going to heaven
They went to Jacksonville

Sing hallelujah
Sing hallelujah
Sing hallelujah
Sing hallelujah

Thank you, you’ve been so nice
All my friends they came
Now close the lid down tightly
And quit crying
Because when they close them
They all look the same

And grab hold of the handle
It won’t be too heavy
And take me to the graveyard

I went to a funeral
And Lord it made me happy
Seeing all those people
I ain’t seen
Since the last time
Somebody…

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #420: ‘Since the Last Time’ – Lyle Lovett

  1. Amy says:

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reflected on the title of the album, then marvelled at how such a simple concept can become so provocative.

    I’ll save Dana the trouble of posting a clip for “She’s Already Made Up Her Mind,” the “powerful dirge” you likely have piqued your fans’ interest about – now they can hear another of Lovett’s unsurpassed live performances.

    Really – how did we ever let an opportunity to see him in concert pass us by. I don’t care where he’s playing, next time he’s anywhere in a 200 mile radius, I’m seeing him again.

    Today’s song is certainly a favorite, though I’m surprised you picked it. It reminds me – in spirit if not in details – of “An Acceptable Level of Ecstasy” – I guess you just need 3 more weddings to have yourself a Mike Newell film. Regardless, I add my “Hallelujah” to the chorus.

  2. Dana says:

    I have often said that Joshua Judges Ruth is Lyle’s best album. Admittedly, I wavered a bit yesterday while reveling in Large Band, but I’m ready to recommit to my former opinion.

    Now, the thing is that Large Band is certainly the more “fun” and easier listen, but Joshua is ultimately more rewarding (and it has it’s share of fun too). In a way, comparing these albums reminds me of discussions regarding the best Billy Joel album. I have always maintained that Nylon Curtain was Joel’s best album–yet it would be hard for me to argue with those who went with the Stranger, 52nd Street or Glass Houses as each of those are lighter and less “work” to listen to.

    Anyway, back to Lyle–my memory of buying this album is far more distinct than probably any other album I ever bought. It was my last semester of law school, and Amy and I drove to Tallahassee, as I was interviewing for a clerkship with the Florida Supreme Court. I was, of course, incredibly nervous and intimidated. While I interviewed with one of the justices, Amy went to the local mall, where she bought this new Lovett album.

    Driving back to Gainesville, we were playing the CD with jaws dropped as to how incredible it was. At some point in our drive, we were passing through some very strange countryside with rather odd looking structures that looked like alien pods on each side of the road in the middle of fields. While joking about the pods, we were pulled over by a cop because I was “allegedly” speeding. And so our wonderful drive of euphorically listening to Lyle and joking about alien invasions had been rudely interrupted by this neanderthal of a police officer–and to make matters worse, he wouldn’t even verify that the pods around us were created by aliens! (I believe he said they were corn storage container–yeah, right!)

    Still, all I could think of while getting this stupid ticket by this stupid cop was, “Hurry up and give me the ticket so we can get back to listening to this great album.”,And, after he handed me that ticket, that’s exactly what we did.

    I didn’t get that Supreme Court clerkship and the ticket was a bummer, but I wouldn’t trade the memory of driving through alien land, holding Amy’s hand and listening to Joshua Judges Ruth for anything in the world.

  3. Amy says:

    I’m willing to bet you could have a being pulled over by a cop story for many of your favorite albums πŸ˜‰

    Pretty cool that the album’s title even echoed the reason you were in that city – listening to Joshua Judges Ruth, interviewing for a clerkship with a Judge, judging the possibility of alien invasion of our planet, being judged by a police officer…. I’m sensing a pattern here.

    I had completely forgotten about us asking him to identify those structures. Guess we’ve (I’ve?) been talking back to cops for most of my life πŸ™‚

  4. pegclifton says:

    Great story Dana! At least you were listening to and driving with someone you love!

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