I try to avoid newsy news here because it is always available elsewhere, but a new album is a new album. Below is an item which appeared in the most recent Rolling Stone (Mar 4 2009) and offers tantalizing whiffs of what we ordinarily dare not hope to hope: a new album of original material, hard on the heels of the still-revelatory, ever-thrilling Tell Tale Signs. The description below may lead us to expect Bob being mordant, caustic, and yearning, foraging wildly through genres and influences, and being entirely unpredictable. All at once. Sir, those of us in the stalls wait patiently for this upcoming offering. We don’t care what you put on the cover, what it’ll cost, or who the fuck plays bass.
DYLAN RECORDS SURPRISE ‘MODERN TIMES’ FOLLOW-UP
Dark new disc with a bluesy border-town feel arrives in April
By David Fricke
I’m listening to Billy Joe Shaver/And I’m reading James Joyce/Some people tell me I got the blood of the land in my voice,” Bob Dylan sings in a leathery growl, capturing the essence of his forthcoming studio album – raw-country love songs, sly wordplay and the wounded state of the nation – in “I Feel a Change Coming On,” one of the record’s 10 new originals.
Set for late April,the as-yet-untitled album arrives a few months after Dylan’s outtakes collection Tell Tale Signs nad it “came as a surprise,” says a source close to Dylan’s camp. Last year, filmmaker Olivier Dahan, who directed the 2007 Edith Piaf biopic, La Vie en Rose, approached Dylan about writing songs for his next feature. Dylan responded with “Life Is Hard,” a bleak ballad with mandolin, pedal steel and him singing in a dark, crystal clear voice, “The evening winds are still/I’ve lost the way and will.” (The song appears in the film My Own Love Song, starring Renee Zellweger.)
Inspired, Dylan kept writing and recording songs with his road band and guests, with Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo rumored on the accordion. Dylan produce the album under his usual pseudonym, Jack Frost.
The disc has the live-in-the-studio feel of Dylan’s last two studio records, 2001’s Love & Theft and 2006’s Modern Times, but with the seductive border-cafe feel (courtesy of the accordion on every track) and an emphasis on struggling-love songs. The effect – in the opening shuffle, “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” the Texas-dance-hall jump of “If You Ever Go To Houston” and the waltz “This Dream of You” – is a gnarly turn on early-1970’s records like New Morning and Planet Waves.
Dylan makes references to the national chaos, as on the viciously funny slow blues “My Wife’s Home Town” (“State gone broke, the county’s dry/Don’t me lookin’ at me with that evil eye”), culminating in the deceptive rolling rock of “It’s All Good.” Against East L.A. accordion and a snake’s nest of guitars, Dylan tells you how bad things are – “Brick by brick they tear you down/A teacup of water is enough to drown” – then ices each verse with the title line, a pithy shot of sneering irony and calming promise. “You would never expect the record after Modern Times to sound like this”, the source says. “Bob takes all of those disparate elements you hear and puts them into a track. But you can’t put your finger on it – ‘It sounds exactly like that.’ That’s why he’s so original.”