Nod to Bob, and Carrie, Mary, Rose, Sarah, and Joanie, too
A good song always leaves room for those who listen to take it in, to make it their own, and to carry it on in their own lives. With lyrics both enigmatic and direct, Dylan has been good at that. To celebrate his birthday, Red House Records, which is based in his native Minnesota, invited musicians who work with the label to choose favorite Dylan songs to record. The result is A Nod to Bob 2, a sixteen track collection that could be a study in songwriting, in singing, in song interpretation -- a study that’s best carried out by playing the disc many times and letting the songs unfold.
There are well known songs , ones that might start to jog your memory with their first notes, and ones that perhaps you’ll be hearing for the first time. Interestingly chosen and thoughtfully sequenced, this album works as few collections do, as a thoughtful narrative of the songwriter’s ideas as well as a group of songs and interpretations that play into and bounce off of each other in ways both familiar and surprising.
Each listener will come by his or her own favourite cuts, of course. Eliza Gilkyson, a master herself of the indirect lyric, offers Jokerman, in a track which was recorded live. Peter Ostroushko takes on Dylan's sense of humour with Mozambique. Pieta Brown goes to the blues side of things with Dirt Road Blues, while Texas troubadour Jimmy LaFave gives Not Dark Yet plenty of space and plenty of room for thought. So do Robin and Linda Williams, whose high spirited take on Walkin’ Down the Line is the closer to the disc. Meg Hutchinson, John Gorka, and Lucy Kaplansky are among others who contribute songs
You might also care to see the first Red House Collection honoring Bob Dylan, A Nod to Bob
This time in late May seems to be a place in the calendar when musicians celebrate birthdays. Several you’ve met along the music road are celebrating around this time of year: Irish singer Mary Black, rising bluegrass star Sarah Jarosz, songwriter Rosanne Cash, Cherish the Ladies founder Joanie Madden, songwriter Carrie Newcomer -- and me. Sign of Gemini in the zodiac, sign of hawthorn in Irish mythology, both said to hold gifts in the arts of communication.
So, good wishes to all who celebrate. Do you have a favourite song by Bob Dylan, or by one of the other artists mentioned here? Let us know in the comments.