Track of the Day: 'Friend of the Devil' by Lyle Lovett

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

This cover song from a reader goes country:

On the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty album, “Friend of the Devil” is a merry jig—a winking description of what fun it is to be an outlaw. Like other cover versions, Lyle Lovett’s take [embedded above] slows the song down. Unlike any others, Lovett makes you feel the narrator’s existential fatigue—both in the way the spare instrumentation evokes the vast isolation of his native Texas and in his delivery of lyrics such as, “If I get home before daylight, I just might get some sleep tonight.”

Update from a reader in North Carolina: “If your correspondent were a real Deadhead, he’d have noted that the Dead also often played ‘Friend of the Devil’ at dirge-like speed.”

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