Whiskey Basin Blues - John Denver - YouTube

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About the song

John Denver’s Whiskey Basin Blues. Now that’s a song that takes you right to the heart of the American West. Denver, of course, was a master storyteller through song, and Whiskey Basin Blues is a perfect example. Released in 1973 on his album Farewell Andromeda, it’s a tune that paints a vivid picture with a few well-chosen words.

The song opens with a stark image: a snow-covered night in eastern Wyoming. It’s a harsh environment, and the sense of isolation is palpable. Denver sings of “another lazy day, lookin’ for the sun,” which tells us two things. One, there’s a sense of timelessness in this place, where days seem to blend together. Two, there’s a yearning for warmth, both physical and emotional.

We then move inside a “drafty old cabin, outside of Whiskey Basin.” Whiskey Basin itself is a fictional location, but it evokes the image of a small, forgotten town, likely one that sprung up around a mining operation or a logging camp. It’s a place on the fringes, a place where folks go to escape or disappear.

And that’s where our protagonist comes in. He’s a “good man on the run,” with a “lady back in Laramie” and a secret that keeps him hidden through the long winter. Laramie, Wyoming, is a far cry from the isolation of Whiskey Basin. It’s a place of civilization, perhaps where he left behind a life he couldn’t maintain. The “reason no one else can see” for his exile is what fuels the Whiskey Basin Blues. It’s a burden he carries alone, a heavy weight that chills him more than the Wyoming winter.

Whiskey Basin Blues is more than just a melancholic ballad, though. It’s a character study. Denver doesn’t tell us the man’s story explicitly, but he lets the details speak for themselves. The drafty cabin, the snowy landscape, the yearning for the sun – they all paint a picture of a man wrestling with his demons. There’s a sense of regret, a feeling of being trapped, both by his circumstances and by his own choices.

Read more:  John Denver - The Chosen Ones

But there’s also a quiet resilience in the song. The melody, while introspective, has a steady rhythm that speaks of a man who hasn’t given up entirely. The harmonica adds a touch of bluesy grit, a reminder of the hardships he faces. Whiskey Basin Blues is a song about facing the cold light of day, even when the future looks uncertain.

So, when you listen to Whiskey Basin Blues, don’t just hear a sad song. Hear the story of a man at a crossroads, a man haunted by his past but determined to find his way. It’s a song that captures the beauty and the harshness of the American West, and the complex emotions of those who call it home.

Video

Lyrics

“Whiskey Basin Blues”

On a snow covered night up in eastern Wyoming, another lazy day, looking for the sun.
In a drafty old cabin, outside of Whiskey Basin, another shining light and a good man on the run.

There’s a lady back in Laramie and a reason no one else can see
for him to spend the winter on his own.
Nothing much to do tomorrow, just a matter of survival.

Another friendly fight in a life chock full of fun.It’s a special kind of medicine, all that you can do is win.
And though the taste is sweet, you can refuse.
Put your heart on the table, fill your cup with moonshine.
Another empty case of the Whiskey Basin Blues.