Graham Reid | | 3 min read
birthday in June 2011 hardly went unobserved in the world – you couldn't turn around without bumping into profiles, reconsiderations, essays and the like – and nor was it
coincidence that many artists lined up for tribute albums.
got in early – like Ben Sidran whose
Dylan Different arrived before Bob's 69th
birthday – and others had clearly been working towards the actual
day. Like Thea Gilmore who launched her tribute with a headlining
show at London's Union Chapel as Bob was somewhere blowing out
Acclaimed English singer-songwriter
Gilmore paid her respects with a cover of one of Dylan's most
interesting albums, John Wesley Harding, on which she rather too often goes
for melody over meaning, or places emotional emphasis where Dylan's
more detached delivery actually freighted the words with greater
Guitarist Robbie McIntosh (Pretenders,
McCartney) guests, the world weary treatment of I Dreamed I Saw St
Augustine is a standout and they neatly sidestep both Bob and
Jimi for a brittle, echoed All Along the Watchtower.
But over the long haul, while respect
is paid and faithful readings mostly avoided, it remains just what it
is, someone covering a classic album.
Those ever reliable “Various Artists” also lined up, the Nod to Bob 2 collection followed Red House Records' similarly conceived tribute on Dylan's 60th.
John Gorka (an earnest Just Like a Woman), Lucy Kaplansky (a wonderful piano ballad treatment of Every Grain of Sand), Guy Davis (House of the Rising Sun), Spider John Koerner (The Days of '49 as a boho poem over percussion), Cliff Eberhardt (Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues) and Peter Ostroushko (Mozambique) returned for the celebration.
Eliza Gilkyson slides through a slippery, live Jokerman which -- like Gilmore -- sacrifices much of the knife-twisting lyric for the surface melody, and Jimmy LaFave (a Dylan acolyte) brings his distinctive voice to a sound version of Not Dark Yet.
A good collection and if you need a Bob tribute -- but really, does anyone? -- then this is perhaps the one.
Like LaFave, the cabaret singer Barb Jungr has had an infatuation with Dylan for the past decade and in 2002 recorded Every Grain of Sand and then just kept on recording and recording. Her Man in the Long Black Coat is a collection of 13 of these recordings and it's as well to sideline that "cabaret" description because she brings a keen intelligence (and no boy dancers you might guess) to these songs.
No one could make a serious case for the featherlight Times They Are A-Changin' but on the ballads (It Ain't Me Babe, Tomorrow is a Long Time with eerie soundscape backdrop) she pulls out the tune without losing the sensibility of the lyrics.
I Shall Be Released with a string trio and harp exists halfway between a 19th century church in rural Georgia and a front parlour in a stately home, and she gets in Eric Bibb on guitar for Trouble in Mind and the rather too poised Blind Willie McTell.
Yes, her treatments with subtle strings and/or a jazz line-up -- ripe for the nightclub, candles on the table, martini glasses -- does take a stretch if you can only hear Dylan's songs in a more raw version. And that's fair enough.
But after a couple of plays even the reggae-fied Just Like A Woman makes a lot of sense.
So there you go.
Happy birthday Bob, there are more royalty cheques in the mail.