Bob Dylan’s contribution to the compilation album, The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams in which curent country songwriters set unpublished Hank Williams lyrics to music. Listen to story of The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams project on episode 68 of the Taproot Podcast.
The big music release this week is The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. Here’s how I understand the background of this CD. Apparently Hank Williams had bunches of notebooks of lyrics that were never set to music. Bob Dylan got permission from the estate to ask wel known artists to compose songs built around the lyrics. Dylan put together an all-star line up of folks to write the songs including Alan Jackson, Norah Jones, Vince Gil, Jack White, Levon Helm, Patty Loveless, Sheryl Crow. What’s amazing to me is how well all these artists stayed true to the spirit of the project, creating songs that sound like they could have come from Hank Williams himself. The notable exception is Lucinda Williams’s track where she takes Williams’ melodic lyrics and drags them through the mud, trying to make them sound like moans and wails. Ridiculous. But she’s the exception. The rest of the CD is amazing. Bob Dylan of course contributes a track the the performance which strikes a good balance between Bob Dylan’s style, which, honestly, is the only way he can sing and Hank Williams. But the big surprise on the disc for me was the Jakob Dylan contribution. He took a set of lyrics that sounded like a standard issue honky-tonk song and turned it into a poignant heart breaker of a song. Very good job. Highly recommend this CD.
On his latest CD, Together Through Life, Bob Dylan tries to go lo-fi. If you look clodely at the CD case, it looks almost, but not quite self-produced. The case looks like the type of cases you buy at staples for data CDs. It has the black plastic ridge down the side. On the inside, the CD sits on a simple black pastic tray. The liner notes are minimal. And from a music perspecitive, Dylan seems to be going for a lo-fi approach as well. Most of the songs feel like blues numbers that are approximately a 1000 years old, performed by a bunch of guys that are almost that old themselves. The stroll through these numbers with an easy going grace. Dylan’s vocals are, well, the usual. obtuse, hard to hear, secondary almost to the music lines. But the lo-fi facade can’t hide the fact that these musicians know what they’re doing and every track is a good listen. Highlights for me are:
Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ / Together Through Life / Bob Dylan / 3:51
Jolene / Together Through Life / Bob Dylan / 3:51
This Dream Of You / Together Through Life / Bob Dylan / 5:54
Shake Shake Mama / Together Through Life / Bob Dylan / 3:37