One of the absolute great accomplishments of the SMiLE sessions was "Cabin Essence", which spins a tale of a home on the grange, with a chorus of migrant workers constructing the railroads. To match Van Dykes Parks' exceptional lyrics, Brian creates a similar audio picture with contrasting instruments: banjos, bouzouki, dobro, harmonicas, cello, fuzz bass and a percussion that sounds eerily like railroad nails. Left unfinished once SMiLE was abandoned, it was luckily one of the few to have seen though to completion by Dennis & Carl Wilson, presumably according to how Brian envisioned it in 1966.
Interestingly enough, Vosse claims that "Cabin Essence" began as three separate entities and were later combined into one song; he even claims that the 'Bicycle Rider' chorus was, at one time, tested out as a segment of "Cabin Essence"! There is no audio evidence to back this up though, so if it is true, Brain had to have resolved on the three sections of "Cabin Essence" by October when the backing track was recorded.
Recording of the backing track was done in one marathon session on October 3rd, 1966, and like the other SMiLE tracks, was recorded in pieces: the verse (dubbed 'Home On The Range'), chorus (dubbed 'Who Ran The Iron Horse') and the tag ('Have You Seen The Grand Coolie'). Brian made a rough mix of it's instrumental construction at this time, solidifying the structure and heard by Vosse. A couple sessions saw The Beach Boys attempt vocals on 12/21 and 12/27, accomplishing backing vocals for the verses, lead & backing vocals for the chorus and lead & backing vocals for the tag. Lead verse vocals were not recorded as it was this song--specifically the lyric "Over and over the crow flies, uncover the cornfield" which Mike Love objected as too abstract, alienating Van Dykes Parks from the project. This was apparently the turning point of SMiLE that begun Brian's downward spiral that doomed the album. Before the sessions ended, Brian again made several short test edits of the segments with various vocal overdubs, possibly in order to see how the transitions flowed from section to section.
Just like "Our Prayer", Dennis & Carl dusted off the multitracks to "Cabin Essence" in 1968 for their 20/20 album, under pressure from the label to revive some of the abandoned SMiLE material that had so heavily been hyped the year before. Using Brian's test mixes and Van Dykes' lyric sheets as a template, the song was reconstructed and Carl recorded his lead vocal for the verses (with Mike adding a counterpoint lyric to the second chorus). Released as the final track on 20/20, it remains a highlight of The Beach Boys late-60s discography.