"Country Down" can be found on Beck's album, Morning Phase
The song began during Beck's now-famous Nashville recording sessions, at which he started to record a fairly traditional country album. He never was fully satisfied with the results, and ended up shelving it, but he did keep 3-4 of the songs and brought them to the Morning Phase
sessions a few years later. Beck told Austin City Limits that "Country Down" had completely different music for a long time, recorded it all over the place, before finally "turning it inside out" and making it "a little less country." He took it to a more melancholy place, which suited the song, and allowed it to fit on Morning Phase in the end. However, ironically enough, with its pedal steel and electric guitar licks and Beck's lonesome harmonica, still feels the closest to pure country music that Beck has ever come (besides some cover songs).
Throughout Morning Phase
, Beck sings of light, land, and water, and each show up here on "Country Down." It has almost become a settling ground for many of the albums ideas. Basically, it seems to me to be about that place where you finally feel comfortable.
Digging into the metaphors, I take the light as hope, land as stability, and water as turmoil. So the song begins at that place in the country, near the turmoil ("all along the floodline" / "weeds hiding downriver right next door"), but not in it, in a more stable place, where the "hills roll out like centuries." This place isn't far from the past, but reads as a haven from it: "the plot against your will is furrowed into your brow / against your better judgment / it's all behind you now."
The next verse twists this safe haven a little--showing that it may be a lonely place. But instead of being darkly lonely, it's expressed as wisdom. Perhaps a little isolation is necessary sometimes ("what's the use in being found when you can lose yourself in some good ground?" - again with the imagery of land tying it to some strength).
More wisdom finishes the song. Don't stay isolated too long, Beck writes, or it could become a prison (calling back to the 'penitent walls' in "Blue Moon"), and you could lose your hope (here expressed as both a flower trying to grow to sunlight and as being stranded on a ladder).