Country Down
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

Versions:
  1. Country Down (4:00)
    Available on Morning Phase.
    Credits
    Justin Meldal-Johnsen: Bass
    Joey Waronker: Drums
    Roger Joseph Manning Jr.: Electric Piano, Organ
    Beck Hansen: Guitar (Acoustic), Harmonica, Producer, Vocals
    Jason Falkner: Guitar (Electric)
    Smokey Hormel: Guitar (Electric)
    Greg Leisz: Guitar (Pedal Steel)
    Ben Baptie: Mix
    Tom Elmhirst: Mix
 
Lyrics:
Country Down [Version (a)]:

Oh country down
Where I found my proving ground
All along the floodline
Wheels are turning around
The hills roll out like centuries
Pass by without a sound
Just a mile outside of town

Downriverbound
Where the limit to your sky fell down
The plot against your will
Is furrowed into your brow
Against your better judgment
It's all behind you now
Just a mile outside of town

What's the use in being found
When you can lose yourself in some good ground?
In the weeds hiding downriver right next door
There's no frame around your picture
Just a view through my back door

Time evermore
You just found what you're looking for
A tiger rose growing through your prison door
Reaching for sunlight, can't see it anymore
Just a mile from my back door

You could wake up on a lifeboat 'neath the sun
On a ladder up to the sky
Standing on the lowest rung
Holding a lifeline, using my best defense
Running in the undertow my heart couldn't fight against

Oh lay me down
Where I found my proving ground
All along the floodline
Waves are turning around
The hills roll out like centuries
Pass by without a sound
Just a mile outside of town
 
The Song:

"Country Down" can be found on Beck's album, Morning Phase.

The song began during Beck's now-famous Nashville recording sessions, at which he started to record a fairly traditional country album. He never was fully satisfied with the results, and ended up shelving it, but he did keep 3-4 of the songs and brought them to the Morning Phase sessions a few years later. Beck told Austin City Limits that "Country Down" had completely different music for a long time, recorded it all over the place, before finally "turning it inside out" and making it "a little less country." He took it to a more melancholy place, which suited the song, and allowed it to fit on Morning Phase in the end. However, ironically enough, with its pedal steel and electric guitar licks and Beck's lonesome harmonica, still feels the closest to pure country music that Beck has ever come (besides some cover songs).

Throughout Morning Phase, Beck sings of light, land, and water, and each show up here on "Country Down." It has almost become a settling ground for many of the albums ideas. Basically, it seems to me to be about that place where you finally feel comfortable.

Digging into the metaphors, I take the light as hope, land as stability, and water as turmoil. So the song begins at that place in the country, near the turmoil ("all along the floodline" / "weeds hiding downriver right next door"), but not in it, in a more stable place, where the "hills roll out like centuries." This place isn't far from the past, but reads as a haven from it: "the plot against your will is furrowed into your brow / against your better judgment / it's all behind you now."

The next verse twists this safe haven a little--showing that it may be a lonely place. But instead of being darkly lonely, it's expressed as wisdom. Perhaps a little isolation is necessary sometimes ("what's the use in being found when you can lose yourself in some good ground?" - again with the imagery of land tying it to some strength).

More wisdom finishes the song. Don't stay isolated too long, Beck writes, or it could become a prison (calling back to the 'penitent walls' in "Blue Moon"), and you could lose your hope (here expressed as both a flower trying to grow to sunlight and as being stranded on a ladder).
 
Live:

Played live 22 times:
Earliest known live version: April 9, 2014
Latest known live version: September 23, 2015

2014

Beck played "Country Down" somewhat sporadically during the 2014 Morning Phase tours. He did it 19 times out of 57 shows, and 12 of those were in the first 20 shows before it more or less vanished. It is a pretty straightforward and laidback song on record, and remained that way during the live shows. Beck's harmonica was a highlight, as was the confident band backing.