“So, what do you think is good about this song?” “It’s slow.” And I reckon Junior’s found the essence there – Gladys lingers with seductive pain, drawing out every word. She’s never rushed, she cherishes those a cappella high points, teetering over the edge of each verse before being joined by sparse, warm instrumentation; the subtle tinkling of Rhodes piano underscoring her fragility.
Few singers match Knight for emotional heft while she manages to marry cracked and lush tones, forming a stark contrast with Kris Kristofferson’s almost jaunty original. When Kristofferson sings, “It’s sad to be alone,” he’s winking, persuading his paramour with a practised line. When Knight wails it, she invests it with an age of hurt. Right now, I’m happy Junior only hears “slow”.