This late into a storied career, Bob Dylan doesn’t need more praise heaped on him. The enigmatic singer songwriter proved a long time ago that he was a force in music and one of the best songwriters in the music industry. But in the latter half of his career, the greatness hasn’t always been evident. While Modern Times and Tempest were great albums, they don’t compare to the Dylan of his early years.
So in leading to his new album Rough and Rowdy Ways, it should be noted that the album is good for this chapter in his career. The songwriting is great and the arrangements are worthy of noting, but his vocals are fairly shot and it’s hard at times to make out what he’s singing. A fan for the hardcore side of his fan base, the record reveals that no matter what, Bob Dylan’s going to release music until he cannot anymore.
While you may search for what Dylan is saying on the opening track “I Contain Multitudes,” the slower side of the aging songwriter sounds as good as always. The track has plenty of depth while never really steering too far from what has made Dylan famous. The swing of guitar that helps mix blues structures and rock touches on “False Prophet” pairs well with Dylan’s graveled voice. “My Own Version of You” tenders itself more to middle era Dylan, but doesn’t retrace steps either.
And while the swoon of instrumentation signals plenty of genre mixing on the album, the release also doesn’t stay too long at the races. “Black Rider” digs deep and goes into multitudes of sound, “Goodbye Jimmy Reed” at times takes from the blues legend’s tone and “Crossing the Rubicon” intermingles blues and that New Orleans swing that Dylan’s incorporated for a while now. But of the ten tracks the most intriguing comes with the organ lead “Key West (Philosopher Pirate).” Almost sung like an epitaph, the somber sounds get shucked and melded with notes of hope and insight. It offers Dylan in an intimate way while giving fans a sound that’s in some ways different from what they’ve heard before. While Rough and Rowdy Ways isn’t the best of Dylan’s work, it’s the best of this latter part of his career.
Rough and Rowdy Ways is available to purchase in various formats and bundles directly from Columbia Records. It is also available to stream wherever you stream music or to purchase digitally wherever you download it.
Image Credits: Photo by William Claxton.