Friday Song: “Sweet Marie”

A 30-year-old song pops up on a powerful new show — and it works

As someone who grew up with a consistent connection with the outdoors in and around Wyoming — in addition to parents and grandparents who lived in, worked in, and helped build some of that area’s major national parks — I have been apalled by the popularity of Yellowstone and its offshoots. These amount for me to a reinvention of the nighttime soap operas of the 1980s like Dallas or Dynasty, but transplanted into an unrealistic Wyoming.

Naturally, I was thrilled to discover Joe Pickett, a much more grounded and riveting show set in the Wyoming wilderness.

When a song from a “hidden gem” album released more than 30 years ago began playing beneath a climactic scene at the end of Season 2, I was a doubly-happy streamer.

“Sweet Marie” is by Hothouse Flowers, an Irish band that combines traditional Irish music with rock and blues. Their sophomore 1990 album, Home, was the follow-up to People, which was released in 1988 and became the most successful debut album in Irish history. The band’s first single was released after Bono arranged for his label to produce it, which led to a deal with Polygram.

After their initial success — their first two albums went Gold or Platinum depending on various charts — the band struggled, and broke up in 1994. They reconvened in 1998, but have only recorded and gigged sporadically since.

Home was one of my favorite albums in the early 1990s, and their cover of “I Can See Clearly Now” is a lot of fun, as are many songs from the album, which still sounds fresh.

“Sweet Marie” tells you all you need to know about how soulful and strong this band was and remains. The lyrics are devastating, the piano is spacious, the dramatic chords for the bridge create real tension and angst, and the singing is excellent. Live performances continue to pop up on YouTube, and are worth a watch if you like the original recording, below.

And watch Joe Pickett. Like this song, it’s a slow burn, but boy, does it burn.


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