Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Bob Dylan, ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’

I ordered Rough And Rowdy Ways after reading Nick Cave’s generous response to inquiries re: Bob Dylan’s lead single: “Murder Most Foul.” The gist shared among enquirers and Cave seemed unique — it appears Dylan is once again tapped into something that registers.
Wrapped in nostalgia.
Dylan has always had a peculiar relationship with nostalgia. He’s reflexively sentimental, but also reflexively contrarian, so the two polarities consistently seesaw in his better songs. There’s a lot of that here. Lyrically, Rough And Rowdy Ways is straight Dylan-the-Lion-in-Winter material.

But the performance is the real surprise. To my ears, he’s singing like he means it.

Sincerity isn’t exactly anathema to Dylan, but it is rare. It makes the album pertinent to the shared moment, I think. Most of us are wrestling with nostalgia and a reckoning with what truly was and is — turns out a little empathy is a welcome solace when sorting through these thorny matters. The album likely will not receive the repeat play that Time Out Of Mind and “Love & Theft” enjoyed in this house — Rough And Rowdy Ways is not quite as rough and rowdy as I prefer my Dylan to be, finally. But it is a lovely album to meditate on, as this particular summer recedes to cooling.

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