Saint James Infirmary


When I came across the lyrics to this song in a book, it conjured up a long-dormant memory. I must have heard Louis Armstrong’s recording of it when I was a kid, so this arrangement grew out of that fragment of melody. This song has the alchemical power to take a singer deep down inside where that paradox of the blues happens, where sadness becomes energy, where grief is transmuted into joy.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

(Robbie Robertson)

This one reminds me of my dad, Ben Hugh Lowry (1919-1992). Like Virgil Cane, he had a particularly Southern sense of betrayal in his blood, and a fierce courage. When I was very small he had a wonderfully aromatic cigarette lighter with a Confederate flag on it. One of my earliest, fondest memories is the magic of that lighter, because when you flipped the lid open it played Dixie and burst into flame.

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