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Rough and Rowdy Ways Proves Bob Dylan Can’t Stop


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.

David Garrick

David Garrick has spent the last five years interviewing some of the most intriguing and engaging artists performing today. Everyone from Angel Olsen to Phoebe Bridgers, Wire to Yo La Tengo, Snail Mail to Soccer Mommy, Ghost to First Aid Kit, The Breeders to Protomartyr, and many more. He's a giant fan of music of pretty much any genre; but especially to the underdogs. He's been known to see more concerts in a week than many people will see in a year.


  • July 25, 2020 at 1:58 am
    Hans Altena

    A sensible review, although I myself rate this album even a bit higher, but that does not matter. The only question I would like to raise, is what makes you fall into the trap of degrading his voice here, which seems to be the cliché most critics return to. I am from the Netherlands, how come that I understand almost every syllable he sings here right away, Dylan has seldom been recorded so well and he sings with so much clarity and he is subtle and forceful at turns, even with the gravel and whatever: he’s not a popsinger, he’s got the blood of his land in his voice, like he wrote himself, remember? I am a singer myself and his phrasing and pitching in for instance I Made up my Mind to give myself to You is something to behold…

    • July 26, 2020 at 3:20 pm

      We feel it’s not a degradation to point out that his vocals are not what they once were. Album reviews are a representation of who the writer feels that the artist is in that moment, not who we wish for that artist to be.


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