Let Me Perplex You for a While
Robert Lee Castleman’s “The Lucky One” (on Alison Krauss and Union Station’s “New Favorite”) won him the Grammy for Best Country Song. But the song that captured my attention when I first gave the album a listen was “Let Me Touch You for a While.” It’s all over the place emotionally and structurally, and yet is a cohesive 3:21 statement. It is, as my son noted, not absurd to call it Country’s “Good Vibrations.”
Although the lyrical content is noteworthy, Castleman managing to provide Krauss with a “touching” love song in the context of a one-night stand, it’s the structural chances taken by Castleman that the songwriter in me longs to learn from.
Intro: starts in the minor, with some haunting dobro lines. Drops you right into the sadness that permeates the setting, a low-rent Country bar, not unlike those (Chapter 11, Sue Me) that I frequented in the distant past.
Verse 1: continues the minor vibe. Hope, however, walks through the door half-way through in the form of a major chord twist in the 3rd and 4th lines.
Verse 2: back to the minor, but this time for just one line. Then into that major-y hope thing for the next 3.
Pre-Chorus 1: mixing the major in with the minor, Castleman sets up the listener for the resolution in the chorus.
Chorus: one line (“Let me touch you for a while”) followed by a rounding out of the measure with some classic Country major 1-5 work.
Verse 3: instead of going back to one of the two already established patterns, Castleman implements a third. This time it’s 2 minor lines, a single major one, and then back to the minor again.
Pre-Chorus 2: same as first, except that instead of it being a launch pad into the chorus, it rolls right into the bridge.
Bridge: really this is two bridges. The first ending with a return to the pre-chorus closing line but with a major chord substitution for the previous minor one. Then a roll straight into a second bridge that follows a similar line to the first but with a different bass root in places and then a finish into the chorus line, this time however with the first part of the line doubled up. It shouldn’t work, but it does.
Dobro solo: yet another pattern, related to, but again not identical to the verses.
Final Pre-Chorus: standard (if anything approaches that in this song) start, but this time instead of launching into the chorus as one would again suspect, it drops you back into the beginning. It’s as though Castleman doesn’t wanting you forgetting the inherent sadness in the scene, even if the touching does lift your spirits for a while.
Let me recap. 3 verses, none following the same chord pattern. A chorus that appears only twice, but only once where it should be (after the pre-chorus). 2 bridges. And an ending that is basically the first verse.