On their live album Listener Supported, Dave Matthews Band does a remake of Johnny Cash’s “Long Black Veil.” Cash’s version is simple and iconic, but the remake is the one that makes me cry. I heard DMB’s version first when I burned my older sister’s albums to the family computer when I was in high school. For a long time I didn’t pay attention to the words except for “long black veil.” Those three words were enough.
However, the song is a fantastic example of the country ballad story-telling tradition. This song is not about some vague phase a couple goes through or a moment in a bar– this song is not relatable (maybe unless you’ve withheld information in court…). This song is not something you strive for. You don’t even (hopefully) think of a friend when listening to this song. It’s just a good story.