Song of the Day #4,368: ‘Omaha’ – Counting Crows

My easy pick for the best album of 1993 is August and Everything After, the debut release by Counting Crows. I’ve talked about doing a theme week (or two) on great debut albums, and this one would surely be near the top of that list as well.

The California-based band had formed just a couple of years before this album’s release, and sparked a bidding war among major labels who heard their demo tapes. They landed T Bone Burnett as producer and knocked out this collection of literate folk rock tunes. The album sold more than 7 million copies in the U.S. and placed three singles on the Hot 100 (including ‘Mr. Jones,’ which reached #5).

I think that early runaway success made the band a target for critics and music snobs. It’s never been cool to like the Counting Crows, and I bet that’s in large part because nobody got the chance to like them before everybody liked them.

This album sounded to me like something brand-new, though they barely concealed the Van Morrison and R.E.M. influences. Adam Duritz’s passionate vocals and evocative lyrics are a perfect match for the rootsy instrumentation, and the songs are hooky but never slight.

It’s a satisfying meal you can eat like popcorn, and one of the best albums of not just its year but its decade.

Start tearing the old man down
Run past the heather and down to the old road
Start turning the grain into the ground
Roll a new leaf over

In the middle of the night, there’s an old man
Treading around in the gathered rain
Hey, mister, if you want to walk on water
Would you drop a line my way?

Omaha, somewhere in middle America
Get right to the heart of matters
It’s the heart that matters more
I think you’d better turn your ticket in
And get your money back at the door

Start threading the needle
Brush past the shuttle that slides through the cold room
Start turning the wool across the wire
Roll the new life over

In the middle of the night, there’s an old man
Threading his toes through a bucket of rain
Hey, mister, you don’t wanna walk on water
You’re only going to walk all over me

Omaha, somewhere in middle America
Get right to the heart of matters
It’s the heart that matters more
I think you’d better turn your ticket in
And get your money back at the door

Start running the banner down
Drop past the color, come up through the summer rain
Start turning the girl into the ground
Roll a new love over

In the middle of the day, there’s a young man
Rolling around in the earth and rain
Hey mister, if you’re going to walk on water, you know
You’re only going to walk all over me

Omaha, somewhere in middle America
Get right to the heart of matters
It’s the heart that matters more
I think you’d better turn your ticket in
And get your money back at the door

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,368: ‘Omaha’ – Counting Crows

  1. Amy says:

    I wholeheartedly concur. I never tire of this album, and Counting Crows is one of the greatest touring bands of all time. Interesting observation about everyone falling for the, simultaneously; it makes a lot of sense. Everyone wants to be the one to discover the next great thing. Me, I’m just happy to get to enjoy them.

  2. Dana Gallup says:

    No argument from me on this one. A truly great album. I think much of the public backlash came from those who never heard anything other than “Mr. Jones.” I personally love that song, but it is a catchier pop tune than anything else on the album. I remember my friend Ned dismissing the Counting Crows based exclusively on “Mr. Jones” and perhaps other hits like “Accidentally in Love.” I was so convinced that he would like or love the album that I took him into the car to hear other tracks. I can’t recall all the sampling I did, but I, of course, had to pull out the big guns with “Anna Begins.” He begrudgingly acknowledged how good that song was (how could any sane music lover not?) and conceded he was unaware of the depth of the band’s music beyond the hits.

    I have no idea if Ned ever played another Counting Crows song or album again, but I tried to do my small part to change perceptions about this great band and album.

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