Bob Dylan Countdown #110: “One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below)”

Dylan claimed this song was inspired by a visit to a gypsy festival in France. If so, he must have been taking some excellent mental notes at this meeting. Bob met the King of the Gypsies at this encounter, but, in song, he puts the focus on his exotic daughter, creating a vivid portrait in just three short verses.

This song is as good as any to point out that doesn’t get near enough credit for his melodic abilities. Even the tunes that he borrowed in part from other songs are usually turned and twisted ever so slightly to lend impact to his own lyrics. “One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below)” is wholly his own creation, and the tune that he generates practically hypnotizes the listener. Scarlet Rivera’s haunting violin adds beautifully to the effect.

I love the way that Dylan describes this girl in part by closely detailing her surroundings. You can tell a lot about her through the depiction of the controlling father, leader of these people, whose facade of power is crumbling (note the trembling voice.) Her mother and sisters spend their time predicting the future, the only kind of knowledge useful in this world (hence the lack of books.)

With the frame of her world in place, Dylan can clearly portray the object of his unfulfilled desire. After spending the first few lines describing her stunning physical attributes, he reveals the emptiness at their core: “But I don’t sense affection no gratitude or love/Your loyalty is not to me but to the stars above.” Her unquenchable thirst for pleasure is contrasted by her coldness:  “But your heart is like an ocean/Mysterious and dark.”

Yet, even with these warning signs, the narrator wants to wring out his stay as long as possible. The “valley below” for which he is destined may just be a geographical destination or it could symbolize a fate as dark as this girl’s heart. Dylan leaves us guessing, even as we’re still pondering the wondrous gypsy girl. Much like the brief visit taken by the narrator to this mysterious world, “One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below)” quickly transports us to a world most of us will never encounter and yet, thanks to the song, somehow now innately understand.

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