“Annie Ford” by Mt. Desolation

54. Song No. 403: “Annie Ford,” Mt. Desolation
Mt. Desolation, 2010

This album is just spilling over with little unassuming, stripped-down gems that pack a punch. It’s one that I’ll forget about for a while, get a sudden hankering for or hear a song from, and then I’m stuck on it for at least a month.

The second track, “Annie Ford,” is a fully realized story unto itself, not another song about an abstract feeling or a moment. It’s only a love song in the traditional, instantly recognizable sense for its first two minutes and 16 seconds, and that love is just the beginning of a story that has a much wider arc and some poignantly hard-won insights that those smaller moments colliding with bigger narratives tend to impart.

It is a beautiful little series of vignettes told in the whisper of understatement that serves tragedy so well. But that’s not the first thing I loved or even noticed about this song.

I found out about Mt. Desolation because I have badly wanted new Long Winters music to happen since 2006’s Putting the Days to Bed took its apparently permanent place as one of my desert-island albums. But I will happily accept a John Roderick side project in the meantime, so attach his name to any musical endeavor and I’m here for it (The Long Winters’ frontman does backing vocals and guitar on Mt. Desolation’s self-titled debut album, and the news of his supporting-role involvement was all it took for me to be all-in even before I heard a single note of its 11 tracks).

Alt-country is not a genre I have any great love for or inclination toward, so I need a little extra personal investment to help make that hard sell a little easier to swallow. And, yeah, Old 97’s was the gateway drug I needed to make anything even remotely country palatable, and there have been plenty of bluegrass and Southern rock that delighted the hell out of me as transcendent exceptions to the rule, but I will never get over my learned initial wariness of anything infused with country; thankfully, albums like this are the best and most infinitely listenable kind of reconsidering longstanding biases.

Sometimes sheer happenstance is why I first fall in love with a song, and that’s totally the case with “Annie Ford.” The album’s opening track sucked me in so completely that I was hooked by the second song, which was this one. I only caught bits and pieces of lyrics at first but was into how it sounded from the beginning. It wasn’t until the album fully bloomed with subsequent revisits and individual songs unfurling to showcase themselves one by one that I really listened to the story this song tells and heard how much this song has to say beyond its lyrics.

Because I did think it was a love song at first blush. And getting smacked between the ears with that “Oh shit, what just happened!?” moment of hearing the turn this song takes and the conclusions it hints at — the echoes of love, the way life goes on even when you think it won’t, the undisputed unfairness of life — suddenly made it more than a deliberately understated second track.

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