Monday, May 23, 2011

Nod to Bob, and Carrie, Mary, Rose, Sarah, and Joanie, too

Opening doors, changing the way listeners and fellow creators of song think about music, writing songs that are literal, mystical, poetic, political, and funny, and always leaving room for more than one way to take the words: those are several things Bob Dylan has done in five decades of his work as a musician. He’s marking a birthday this last week in May. All over the word and all through this year there have been and will be tributes to this unlikely musical hero who grew up in the Minnesota Iron Range town of Hibbing, and first built his national fame in the clubs of New York’s Greenwich Village. .

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.

nod to bob 2 cover bob dylan tributeThere 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.

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Blogger Anjuli said...

Happy Birthday to you! :)

I don't have any favorite song of Bob Dylan's. I do like Mary Black's "Only a Woman's Heart"

6:44 PM  
Anonymous Alexandra said...

Sounds like a cool project. Thanks for writing about it.

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Casey@Good. Food. Stories. said...

Happy birthday to all you amazingly creative people! I'll be sure to throw on some Blonde on Blonde as I hit the road for a mini-vacation today in honor of y'all.

8:21 AM  

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