Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dylan on a Sunday

One of my favorite lines from my favorite movie, High Fidelity, is when Rob admits to a co-worker that he hasn't "quite absorbed that one yet," referring to a tape the co-worker made for him. I like that line because of how it defines that particular relationship in the movie, but I also totally understand it with regard to a new cd. I often can't say whether or not I like a cd for awhile. It takes a bit to absorb.

I'm still absorbing the new Dylan, though I am ready to say that I like it a lot. I just don't know what it is yet. But here are some of my initial impressions. What makes this cd different from recent Dylan productions is its Tex-Mex feel. This feels like El Paso or Laredo in many places. It's big open spaces, dust devils and tumble weed. You can feel the grainy dried sweat on your face as you drive between Odessa and Monahans with the windows rolled down. I don't typically have a hankering for this kind of music. But the accordians and horns and the Texas swing deliver the most romantic part of Texas culture.

Even with the Texican feel, the more recent Dylan rock/swing edge is still very much present. In the recent Rolling Stone, Dylan talks admiringly about Chuck Berry, and it's not hard to imagine Berry standing in on some of these numbers. And these are my early favorites on the cd (Behind Here Lies Nothing, Jolene, It's All Good, Shake Mama Shake). These songs register first in your spine. You feel them before you hear them. They're pointy black boots and fedoras, full court press heavy and relentless. They roll over you and through you. They are the perfect setting for Dylan's sandpaper voice.

I'm beginning to piece together some of the lyrics. Dylan's clearly having a lot of fun at all of our expense, pulling back the pretense. Nowhere is this more evident than in the last song, It's All Good. "Big politicans, telling big lies, rest stop kitchen all full of flies, don't make a difference, don't see why it should, cause its all right, it's all good. Wives are leaving their husbands, they leave the party and never get home, I wouldn't change it, even if I could, you know what they say, it's all good." You can actually hear Dylan chuckle on "My Wife's Hometown." "There's reasons for that, and reasons for this. I can't think of them now, but I know they exist. I'm sittin' in the sun, till my skin turns brown. I just came here to say that hell's my wife's hometown." The whole cd sounds classic Dylan themes. The world's a bleak place, the only comforts are in a lover's arms. But love isn't sentimentalized. Could be you end with a woman who hails from hell. Seriously, what a great lyric.

So, it's a good day to be a Dylan fan.

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