“Look at Miss Ohio” is probably the most popular song off of Gillian Welch’s 2003 studio album, Soul Journey, produced by her musical and life partner, David Rawlings. “Miss Ohio” reflects the natural aesthetics and the “live” feel that’s present on all of her albums up to this date.
The song is in the key of C major, constructed around the following chord progressions: F, C, G, Am, G, F, C, G, F, C, G for both the chorus and the verses, and Am, D9/F#, Am, D for the instrumental breaks, and F, C, G for the intro and the outro.
The song form is: intro, chorus, verse, instrumental break, verse, chorus, instrumental break, solo, verse, chorus, outro
Now let’s take a look at how the arrangement progresses, from beginning to end. It starts with a natural sounding strummed acoustic guitar on the right side and a soft and warm sounding bass guitar in the center, mixed rather low at the beginning of the song. The sound of the guitar comes from a medium distance but the sound is not overly thin, it only leaves space for the bass to occupy the low end.
A dobro enters in the center at 0:08, playing fill-ins. At 0:12 another strummed acoustic guitar appears on the left side, playing a sparser pattern than the other one, and with a slightly different tone.
The lead vocal starts at 0:16, with just what sounds like a touch of plate reverb on Gillian’s voice, and is mixed rather high.
There’s an instrumental break from 1:04 on with the dobro playing the lead role, with very gentle ride cymbal accents happening from 1:06.
The drums start at 1:42, with a solid “two and four” groove. They are mixed quite high with fat yet tight snare hits, which adds to the big, raw sound with a good amount of natural room reflections. They are not overly compressed, and their stereo image is pretty narrow, sounds like it’s actually mono. The hi-hat plays ½ notes.
In the 2nd instrumental break at 2:06, the hi-hat stops and there are jazzy and mellow crash hits adding color to the sound. From 2:22 on, the dobro starts playing a solo over the chords of the chorus/vers
es. During the solo at 2:26, the hi-hat enters again with the ½ notes.
After the solo, the lead vocal comes back again at 2:37, with a good amount of audible distortion over the line “I know all about it…”, it adds to the excitement as well as the raw quality of the tune.
The drums, the bass and the acoustic guitar on the left side stop at 3:28, leaving the dobro in the center and the right side guitar playing together in a quieter break over the outro chords.
The bass comes back in at 3:42, and the left side acoustic guitar re-enters as well, at 3:46.
Finally the drums start playing again from 3:53 on, and a mellow crash hit ends the song at 4:07.
Of course the live version is usually just the two of them on guitars, with David singing harmony for Gillian, which is not present on the studio version.