It starts with a heavy-handed, somewhat plodding kick-snare-kick-kick-snare drum pattern, joined after a couple of bars with acoustic guitar, and electric guitar playing an intro riff, and then the voice. You keep thinking the beat will drag on the melody, or the melody on the beat, but they remain in world weary synch throughout.
The chords are B C#m E, F#, which is probably A, Cm, D, F, but with a capo.
Allison Moorer’s singing voice is rich and deep, somewhere nearer to Wynonna than Nanci Griffith. There are two long verses before you get to the first chorus.
By the end of the first verse, the rich and lush strings have come in as a counterpoint to the harsher guitars and drums. The tone of the song is a weary farewell, a had-enough acknowledgement that we’ve heard it all before. “I’m tired of your stories / I know it word for word,” she sings. But she keeps us in suspense for another verse. We know what he’s going to say, but he doesn’t get to say it yet. Then she says, “I would have left the first time / I ever heard you say,” and to help us – and him – out she sings the first chorus for us, quoting him.
I didn’t mean to break your heart
If you’ll just give me one more chance
There’ll be no next time
I promise I will never break your heart
Again, again, again
A short guitar solo now, just a few bars, a taster of what is to come. Slightly breaking up into distortion, a solo with rich harmonics set against the padding of the strings.
Then there’s one more weary verse, almost a breakdown – as most of the accompaniment falls away – about how she’s feeling the pain but knows she’ll get over it – before a reprise of the chorus, but this time it’s different. This time it’s him, a male voice. She let’s him say it, “once more for old times sake”.
And he (Lonesome Bob) starts to sing, but in the background, she parrots him, slightly behind him, but then anticipating what he’s going to say. He sings it, but she already knows the lines, so she says them for him, leading him. Leaving him.
And then the guitar. It starts at 4:52. I don’t think there’s anything in music more beautiful than this. The solo comes in and the orchestral strings come to the fore, ebb and flow, and she wails away in the background as the lead guitar improvises into the distance, all the time cutting his slightly distorted lead against the cellos and violins, and it charges on, with the strings stabbing, ebbing, flowing, stabbing again, not to a fade, but to a finish.