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Steve Wynn’s “Simpler Than the Rain” is Sweet Country with an Unpredictable Edge

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“Simpler Than the Rain” starts in an easy way with acoustic guitar, but after the band gently kicks in, the song’s warm and slightly loose playing is given an unusual tension as Steve Wynn starts singing.

His edgy drawl’s DNA might be more likely to be heard in indie rock (and his work with The Dream Syndicate suggests this is the case) but here it gives the whole song a weird and highly refreshing edge.

The way the band plays evokes a bunch of friends who have gathered spontaneously at some summer party to try out their latest song and get couples dancing with a sweet country vibe. But throughout this, Wynn’s singing undermines the familiar sounds of organ and slide guitar by stuttering the first time he sings the title. Indeed, he doesn’t even seem to sing the words right; it sounds like ‘slimper than the rain’ and any predictability you might be expecting from the track stops right there.

Apparently ‘the pain,’ which could be attributed to a failed relationship which he would like to rekindle, is ‘simpler than the rain’ which is a fascinating concept. Why is the rain more complicated? Does it amplify the pain he’s feeling? Does it make all the parts of love more complex as he watches it fall? At least it’s simpler “till the floods come back once again.” Perhaps the flood washes all the feelings away for him. The lyrics are just ambiguous enough to keep you guessing throughout.

After the “flood” comes a spritely and beautifully played organ solo, and in the last verse, my favourite lyric of the song:

All I ever knew was mist and residue

One big open drain

Simpler than the rain

Again the title is not quite correctly pronounced, so that Wynn’s idiosyncratic vocal delivery continues to trip you up to the end.

All the parts of “Simpler Than the Rain” connect so well together, but not in the way you might expect. That gives it a strength and a quality that bears multiple replays.

As the band jam lazily away into that warm summer night, you realize that whichever party they’re playing at, it’s one you’ll want to gatecrash.

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