The song Lay Low by My Morning Jacket is the eighth track on the album Z. When the song starts, it seems like your typical My Morning Jacket song, ‘though perhaps a bit more upbeat than most. For the first few minutes, Jim James sings away in his usual style.
At precisely three minutes and three seconds, the vocals cease and the purely instrumental portion of the song begins. As one guitar continues to play the melody line, a second guitar begins its solo.
It starts like something from Wayne’s World: a cheesy little figure tapped out quickly on the fretboard. But then it begins to soar. Far from being cheesy, it quickly becomes clear that what I’m hearing is the sound of joy articulated through the manipulation of steel strings stretched over a piece of wood, amplified by electricity.
As the lead guitar settles into a repeated motif, the guitar that was previously maintaining the melody line switches over. At exactly three minutes and thirty seconds, it starts repeating a mantra of notes that are infectiously simple.
For a short while, the two guitars play their separate parts until, at three minutes and thirty three seconds, they meet. The mantra, the riff — call it what you will — is now being played in unison, raising my spirits and pushing the song forward.
The guitars remain in unison until just after four minutes into the song. Now they begin to really let loose, each soaring in its own direction as the rest of the band increase the intensity of the backing.
Two seconds before the five minute mark, the guitar parts are once again reunited, but this time in harmony rather than unison. At five minutes and nineteen seconds, a piano — that was always there but I just hadn’t noticed until now — begins to pick out a delicate tinkling melody in a high register. It sounds impossibly fragile surrounded by a whirlwind of guitars, drums, and bass, but it cuts right through. And it is beautiful.
At five minutes and twenty six seconds, as the piano continues to play, one of the guitars drops down low and starts growling out its solo. From there, everything tumbles inevitably to the end of the song.
The band stops playing at five minutes and fifty seconds, but we’re given another twenty seconds to hear the notes fade to silence. The instrumental break has lasted three minutes. It is the most uplifting and joyous three minutes that has ever been captured in a recording studio.
Now, divine air! now is his soul ravish’d! Is it not strange that sheep’s guts should hale souls out of men’s bodies?