“Comin’ Down” is the final track on the Meat Puppets’ eighth and most successful album, Too High to Die. It is also the most country song on that record, harkening back to some of their most alt-country work of the previous decade. The song is a jaunty, upbeat country stomper that is actually either about giving up drugs or giving up on the search for enlightenment (or both). The lyrics don’t really match the tone.
Jaimie Branch was a Chicago-based trumpeter with two studio albums as a leader to her credit. She has also played in a number of other combos. Her third album as leader is a posthumous release coming out in August. (She died last summer.) The album features a cover of “Comin’ Down” she recorded with bassist Jason Ajemian, retitled “The Mountain” for this release.
Their cover opens with a low drone on Ajemian’s bass with some whispering followed by a bowed bass solo. Ajemian takes the lead on vocals and accompanies himself on his bass. Branch joins on backing vocals. Branch’s famous trumpet finally comes in for the solo at the three and a half minute mark.
It’s easy to speculate why a release is credited to a performer who appears to take a back seat in the song. It’s possible the cover was not finished before her death, or Ajemian decided Branch should get credit for the track given what happened. Or this version—with Ajemian taking centerstage for most of the song—is just how Branch wanted it. Regardless, it’s a stark, almost primitive version of the Meat Puppets song, adhering closer to folk in its performance than country. It makes the song feel timeless. That was present in the original version to an extent, but the upbeat performance made the song feel a little more contemporary.
It’s such a simple way to do the song but it also feels fresh and new. How many songs are just two voices, standup bass and a trumpet solo?