A Rough & Rowdy Dylan
Well, I’m listening to the Jester, who sang for the King and Queen, out on Highway 61 wearing a coat from Jimmy Dean.
The words above, paraphrased from Don McLean’s epic song “American Pie” are of course talking about Bob Dylan, and Dylan is well worth talking about at the moment.
Today, a long eight years since his last, he has released an album of new songs titled Rough and Rowdy Ways and I would like to thank my long-suffering brother Mark who, after wisely ignoring my plea that he camp outside J B Hifi in Dunedin overnight just in case there was a morning rush from Dylan freaks, grabbed a copy and couriered it up to me in Alexandra on a same day courier.
There are few things in life that I enjoy more, or await with a greater sense of excitement and expectation, than a new Dylan album, and as I popped the CD into my laptop I experienced that rare, and oh so exquisite feeling of delicious sadness that never again would I be able to listen to this album for the first time.
I know full well that Bob ain’t everyone's cup of tea, I long ago lost track of how many times I have been told jokes about his voice, but as with all art, beauty is in the eye, or in this case, ear of the beholder and to me his voice is as smooth as a fine red wine, and as rich as a blue vein cheese, and like the wine and cheese, it just gets better as he gets older.
So people can make their jokes about his talent (or lack of it) but you haven’t heard him through my ears, and you haven’t read his lyrics with my eyes, and some things are unexplainable to those who don’t understand.
Bob is now 79 so I am aware this is probably the last “new” Dylan album that I will ever get to listen to and it makes me genuinely sad but also immensely thankful that I have got to experience so many.
I had high expectations for this new album, the reviews that had been coming out about it were the best for years, and after the first listen my expectations were met and exceeded. The sound was warm, the voice was well-weathered, deep and sparse and the lyrics?
Well how do you critique the master of words using words. Perhaps the best way to explain the audaciousness of Dylan’s lyrical offering on this album is to just quote one of his lyrics.
“I’ll play every number that I can play.
I’ll see you maybe on judgement day.
After midnight if you still wanna meet.
I’ll be in Black Horse Tavern on Armageddon Street.”
Dylan has shown, through 6 turbulent decades that he is not a reed swayed by the wind, and he is not the beater of someone else’s drum, and most importantly, he is the teller of the truth the way he sees it.
And as this latest album shows once again, he sees clearer than most and his brutal honesty is displayed once again, perhaps summed up best in the simple but powerfull line of Bob reflecting on life and his place in it. “Im travelling light, and I’m slow comin home!”
Great stuff Bob!