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"Rio Grande" is one I wrote without thinking about it too much then later had it explained to me. Turns out it is biographical. I just wanted to write a Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes type of song of very enjoyable, shaggy dog nonsense. I later achieved that more fully with "Ark of the Covenant". Rio Grande ties into our theme by featuring the general frenzied motion of youth, a river gathering no mold, then saying "now I'm gettin' ready to settle down/Just five more years of runnin' around" which was almost exactly right.
The guitar solo was very intentionally composed, not improvised, and has been played exactly the same way on every live and/or recoreded version. Someone once asked me "Are you going to play that solo the same exact way every time you play that song?" and I said "Yes." It is perfect just like it is. The only difference is that if I play it on acoustic I slide up to certain notes and if I'm on electric I bend up to those same notes.
I remember seeing a country artist on Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show in the early 1990s and thinking the guitar solo was just perfect for the song. I wish I could remember what the song or artist was, but it doesn't really matter. The point was that the solo was perfect, thoughtful, melodic, evocative, tasteful, and a faithful servant of the beauty and meaning of the song - the guitar solo equivalent of Ringo's drumming. I wanted that here; something I could repeat effectively without anxiety or concern about an improvisation blowing up in my face.
I played this song at Jazzy's House of Blues and Cigar Parlor in Stillwater and a patron told me that I should "get it on KQ" and that it would make me some money there. (KQRS is the Twin Cities' monolithic classic rock station that alternates Tom Petty, Aerosmith, and Led Zeppelin.) I said that was a great idea.
Well there ain't no mold like the mold on the Rio Grande
And there ain't no mountain like the mountain in mountain dew
And there ain't no words like "Oye, amigo, a donde?"
And there ain't nobody who loves me like you do
Well I spent a lot of time pullin' teeth
And I saved a lot of money by bein' a thief
But I'd give it all back if I coulda spent it on you
And I ate a lot of food that I didn't really like
But I made a getaway on a shiny motorbike
And I wouldn't go back but sometimes I might ride through
Well I spent a lot of years in smoky rooms
And I spent a lot of time doin' other peoples' tunes
When I look back now I can see what I shoulda done
I shoulda made a break for San Luis
I shoulda done a favor for Wendell Gee
But I guess that sometimes all you can do is run
And I spent a lot of years breakin' hearts
And I spent a few bullets in the six gun arts
If it's scars you want, I got me a few
But now I'm gettin' ready to settle down
Just five more years of runnin' around
We'll see what happens, we'll see what I do
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