“I Wanna Slow You Down” / Joe Ely
Joe Ely has been touring the country lately with his colleagues John Hiatt, Lyle Lovett, and Guy Clark, and it kills me to read the reviews of their performances – four songwriters armed with acoustic guitars, sitting on a bare stage and trading off songs with each other. I saw them about a year ago and it was one of the great concerts of my life. I wish they were visiting my neck of the woods this time around.
I didn’t even know who Joe Ely was before I saw the Songwriters Circle, but after I came home, I promptly downloaded several songs and soon picked up a couple CDs (he’s released about a dozen.) His stuff has been growing on me like crazy. This is just one of the many wonderful tracks on his 1992 album Love and Danger (an absolute gem). Joe Ely is from Texas, so I’m not surprised by the western twang at the beginning, or lyrics that mention truck stops and coyotes. But he straddles the line between country and rock better than almost anybody I know -- I read somewhere that Bruce Springsteen is a Joe Ely fan, and I can see that roots-rock similarity – and even on this relatively languid track, a knocking drumbeat and peeling guitar riffs jack up the wattage. It’s not a ballad, exactly, but a . . . well, a lovemaking song. And one that sets my pulse racing.
“Come here with me,” Joe coaxes, in his slightly weathered real-guy tenor. “I wanna slow you down / I wanna smear the moonlight in your skin / And put Orion in your crown.” I’m already intrigued – I’m such a sucker for men who spout poetry, especially when they wear faded blue jeans. Then he reveals just enough of his sensitive male side: “Let it all go / I know that you’re beat / That truck stop’s just not good for you / You’re always on your feet.” By now I’m relaxing on the couch, feet up, waiting gratefully to be taken care of. Instinctively I feel as if this man knows women – and likes them. By the time he sidles into the chorus, I’m all ears. “I wanna slow you down / Slow you down / I wanna slow you down” he repeats with growing urgency, hissing on the occasional s, lengthening the o in “slow” and “down” with a suppressed groan. Not sleazy, though; not at all. It's just plain erotic.
“Take off your dress,” he suggests next, casually, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. I can almost hear the zipper being tugged open, tooth by tooth, taking its time. “I wanna feel the warmness of your skin / As your heart begins to pound.” The physical immediacy of these up-close details is intoxicating; I am feeling flushed, and my heart is pounding. Then he closes in for the last verse: “Lay a while beside me / Forget about your cares / Down in your arroyo / I wanna climb your silver stairs…” Now there’s a songwriter who knows how to use a metaphor.
If Joe had sung this song the night I saw him, I’d have hung around the stage door for hours afterward. Maybe it’s just as well…