Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bob Dylan Gets It

Bob Dylan gets it (see post High Plains Drifter). On his new album Together Through Life, Dylan captures that hot, dry spirit of the High Plains and the entire Lone Star State. Really, the whole thing feels like a drive from Houston to Laredo to Brownsville in a dusty old El Dorado convertible--stopping in borderland cantinas and reminiscing about lost love and unrealized dreams. If you care more about honesty and art than pretty pop singing, then you should open your soul to this new album. If you are a Texan by birth and/or disposition, you should take time to let this album grow in you--it doesn't grow on you, it grows in you.

Here are some excerpts, highlighting Dylan's thoughts on Texas, from a recent Rolling Stone cover story. " 'You feel things, and you're not quite sure what you feel,' Dylan says of the region. 'But it follows your every move, and you don't know why. You can't get out of it...' The album bottles the feeling of King Ranch country along Highway 77... 'Spirited guys from down there,' Dylan believes. 'Independent-thinking guys. Texas might have more independent-thinking people than any other sate in the country. And it shows in the music... I think you really have to be a Texan to appreciate the vastness of it and the emptiness of it,' Dylan says. 'But I'm an honorary Texan.' "

Dylan gets it. And so should you. If you're planning a road trip this summer, or if you just want to pretend you're on a Tex-Mex adventure, you've got to include at least a couple of tracks from Together Through Life. I'd suggest "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'," "If You Ever Go to Houston," "Jolene," and "It's All Good." The last one is a lesson in not going gentle into that good night, with lines like "Big politicians telling lies / Restaurant kitchen all full of flies / Don't make a bit of difference / Don't see why it should...it's all good."

When Dylan met French president Nicolas Sarkozy recently, the president asked Dylan where he was from. "I'm from the Lone Star State," was Dylan's reply. Then, for a gift Dylan gave the president a Texas-style belt buckle (we call 'em turkey platters). If you know that Dylan is from Minnesota, and really from nowhere, then you understand how funny it all is. But then on "I Feel a Change Comin' On" he sings, "I'm listening to Billy Joe Shaver / And I'm reading James Joyce / Some people they tell me / I've got the blood of the land in my voice." Indeed. Dylan gets it. And if you don't know who Billy Joe Shaver is, you've got some work to do.

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