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Rough and Rowdy Ways – Bob Dylan

Rough and Rowdy Ways is 79-year-old Bob Dylan’s 39th studio album, and his first of original material since 2012’s Tempest. The title of the album comes from the 1929 song “My Rough and Rowdy Ways” by Jimmie Rodgers. Between Tempest and the new album, Dylan released three albums (one of them being a triple album), of traditional pop standards covers, many of which had been recorded by Frank Sinatra, as well as seven volumes in his ongoing Bootleg Series. The ten new songs here, which cover nearly 71 minutes, have themes of love, mortality, menace, and doom, and make allusions to many historical figures and works of art. Dylan is backed by his touring band, he wrote all songs, and it is assumed that it was self-produced, though there are no producer credits given.
The album, his first album of new material since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016, is one of my favorite releases of 2020 thus far. Below are a few comments about each song:
I Contain Multitudes – This was the second song released prior to album’s release. The title comes from Song of Myself, 51 from Walt Whitman. Dylan sings the song beautifully in a low register over an acoustic guitar and cello. He’s a man of contradictions, a man of many moods, he contains multitudes
Key lyric:
I’m just like Anne Frank, like Indiana Jones
And them British bad boys, the Rolling Stones

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More of this review and a review of Blues with Friends by Dion
  • Music News
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

False Prophet – This slow blues song was the third song released prior to the album’s release. The song features a gravely Dylan vocal over guitar, bass and drums, and a few excellent guitar solos. The song incorporates a guitar lead and other elements from the B-side of a 1954 single by Billy “The Kid” Emerson, a pianist, singer and composer whose songs were recorded by Elvis Presley and others. The song touches on life, death, love, hatred, and about Dylan himself.
Key lyric:
I ain’t no false prophet
No I’m nobody’s bride
Can’t remember when I was born
And I forgot when I died

My Own Version of You – This slow blues song has Dylan as sort of a Dr. Frankenstein visiting morgues and monasteries collecting body parts in hopes of creating his own version of a past lover, someone who feels the way that he feels. The song features soft percussion, guitar, bass, and an expressive vocal from Dylan.
Key lyric:
I’ll bring someone to life, is what I wanna do
I wanna create my own version of you

I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You – This slower paced song could be a love song, or a song of spiritual awakening. It features acoustic guitar, bass, light percussion, light backing vocals and has a guitar solo mid-song. Traveling is a theme in the song. He can’t bear to live his life alone. He laments that many people he has known are now gone.
Key lyric:
If I had the wings of a snow white dove
I’d preach the gospel, the gospel of love
A love so real, a love so true
I’ve made up my mind to give myself to you

Black Rider – The vocal and music on this song may remind some of Dylan’s recent pop standards albums. The slow song features sparse instrumentation of acoustic guitar and bass, with the focus on Dylan’s vocal. In the song, Dylan addresses a mysterious figure, perhaps Death.
Key lyric:
Black rider, black rider, tell me when, tell me how
If there ever was a time, then let it be now
Let me go through, open the door
My soul is distressed, my mind is at war

Goodbye Jimmy Reed – This blues song features a great beat driven by guitar, drums, bass and harmonica. The song includes a lot of religious imagery.
Key lyric:
For thine is kingdom, the power, the glory
Go tell it on the mountain, go tell the real story
Tell it in that straightforward, puritanical tone
In the mystic hours when a person’s alone

Mother of Muses – This is a slower paced song that features acoustic guitar, bass, and mandolin. The muses may be a reference from Homer’s Odyssey. He sings that he is falling in love with Calliope, one of the nine muses – the muse of poetry – in Greek Mythology. He praises the muses for clearing the path for Presley to sing, and carved the path for Martin Luther King. My least favorite song on the album.
Key lyric:
I’ve already outlived my life by far

Crossing the Rubicon – This slow blues song is about Dylan crossing the Rubicon River, an ancient red river in Italy, that is “three miles north of purgatory, and one step from the great beyond”. He sings:
What are these dark days I see?
In this world so badly bent
I cannot redeem the time
The time so idly spent
How much longer can it last?
How long can it go on?

The song features bass, drums, and some excellent guitar.

Key lyric:
I feel the Holy Spirit inside
See the light that freedom gives
I believe it’s in the reach of
Every man who lives
Keep as far away as possible
It’s darkest ‘fore the dawn (Oh Lord)
I turned the key, I broke it off
And I crossed the Rubicon

Key West (Philosopher Pirate) – This nine-minute, slower paced song, is about an outlaw who is dying and hiding out in Florida. He is alone except for his radio. The song features accordion, bass, and light percussion.
Key lyric:
Key West is the place to be
If you’re looking for immortality
Key West is paradise divine
Key West is fine and fair
If you lost your mind, you’ll find it there
Key West is on the horizon line

Murder Most Foul – Dylan surprised everyone when he released this song at midnight on March 27. The song would top Billboard’s Rock Digital Song Sales chart, becoming Dylan’s first number one song. The title of the 17-minute song comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Dylan talk/sings over piano, violin and soft percussion. He uses the assassination of President John F. Kennedy as the foundation of the song, includes many references to popular culture, and ends with sending out a plea to DJ Wolfman Jack to play the songs of musical legends. In a recent interview, Dylan said “The song is like a painting, you can’t see it all at once if you’re standing too close. The individual pieces are just part of a whole.”
Key lyric:
The day that they killed him, someone said to me,
“Son, the age of the Antichrist has just begun”.

Best songs:
False Prophet
Goodbye Jimmy Reed
Crossing the Rubicon
Murder Most Foul

Blues with Friends – Dion

I first became interested in Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dion (DiMucci), who will turn 81 in July, when he recorded five Contemporary Christian music albums between 1980 and 1986. I’ve enjoyed his music ever since.  The liner notes for Blues with Friends are written by Bob Dylan, a friend of Dion since the early 1960’s, when they were both signed to Columbia Records. Dylan writes “Dion knows how to sing, and he knows just the right way to craft these songs, these blues songs. He’s got some friends here to help him out, some true luminaries. But in the end, it’s Dion by himself alone, and that masterful voice of his that will keep you returning to share these blues songs with him.”
The album has a number of guest artists (Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, etc.), partnering with Dion, with great results. All songs were written by Dion and Mike Aquilina, with the exception of two remakes – “Kickin’ Child 2020” and “Hymn to Him”. The album was produced by Wayne Hood, who also played guitars, bass, Wurlitzer electric piano, Hammond Organ and drums.
I thoroughly enjoyed this album, one of my favorites of 2020 thus far. Here are a few brief comments about each song:

Blues Comin’ On – This song features Joe Bonamassa on guitar. The song begins with guitar and immediately moves into a driving beat, including a few guitar solos from Bonamassa. Dion offers a strong and confident vocal. An excellent opener.
Kickin’ Child 2020 – This mid-tempo song was written by Dion and Buddy Lucas, and features Joe Menza on guitar. This was the title song of Dion’s “lost album”, recorded in 1965, but not released until 2017. It features a Menza guitar solo mid-song.
Uptown Number 7 – This song features Brian Setzer (Stray Cats) on guitar. The song opens with Setzer’s guitar and immediately moves into a good rockabilly Stray Cats type beat, featuring a few Setzer guitar solos. About the song, Dion said that he wanted to write an old-fashioned gospel song in the style of the Golden Gate Quartet, about moving forward in the spiritual life, having a goal, and facing temptations along the way.
Can’t Start Over Again – This song features Jeff Beck on guitar. The pace slows down on this country blues song. The song is about love and loss and heartache. It features strings and a Beck guitar solo mid-song
My Baby Loves to Boogie – This song features John Hammond, who Dion has been friends with since the 1960’s, on harmonica. This song kicks off with guitar and harmonica and goes right into a driving blues beat. It features a guitar solo mid-song.
I Got Nothin’ – This song features Van Morrison on vocals and Joe Louis Walker on guitar. This song starts with guitar and harmonica and a driving beat. The song, which has Dion and Morrison trading vocals, features some excellent guitar, including a solo mid-song.
Stumbling Blues – This song features Jimmy Vivino on guitar and Jerry Vivino on saxophone. The easy-going song has a melody built on a classic blues progression, with Dion singing in a lower register, and also includes some piano and strings.
Bang Bam Boom – This song features Billy F. Gibbons (ZZ Top) on guitar. This song is driven by guitar and bass, and features some background vocals. Caroline saved his soul and eased his worried mind.
I Got the Cure – This song features Sonny Landreth, an incredible guitarist, who I saw in concert as a part of John Hiatt’s band two years ago. The song has Dion bragging about what he can do, he’s got the cure. The song features guitar, drums and some excellent horns. The song features a few guitar solos by Landreth.
Song for Sam Cooke (Here in America) – This is a powerful song that touches on racism in America that Dion began many years ago. It includes reference to his walking southern streets with Cooke in 1962. He would put the song aside because he thought it was too personal, until he saw the 2018 Oscar winning film Green Book. The mid-tempo song features acoustic guitar, violin, and Paul Simon on backing vocals.
What If I Told You – This song features Samantha Fish on guitar. The song is about suspicion. It is driven by Fish’s excellent guitar work and drums.
Told You Once in August – This song features John Hammond on guitar and Rory Block on slide guitar and vocals. This song has an Appalachian blues feel, and is about the anger of a man who gradually realizes that he’s been done wrong by his woman.
Way Down (I Won’t Cry No More) – This up-tempo song features Stevie Van Zandt on grunge guitar. He’s been way down but won’t stay long. The song features some excellent guitar from Van Zandt.
Hymn to Him – This song was written by Dion and Bill Tuohy, and features Patti Scialfa on vocals and Bruce Springsteen on guitar. The mid-tempo song was originally recorded on Dion’s 1986 album Velvet and Steel. Springsteen surprised Dion by coming into the studio and asking to play a guitar solo on the song.
Key lyric:
Come to Him through the darkness
Come to Him through the rain
Walk with Him from misfortune
Walk with Him from the pain

Best songs:
Blues Comin’ On
Uptown Number 7
I Got Nothin’
Bang Bam Boom
Song for Sam Cooke (Here in America)
Hymn to Him

Song for Sam Cooke (Here in America)

This week’s song of the week is from Dion, and features Paul Simon on backing vocals. The song is included on Dion’s new album Blues with Friends. This is a song that touches on racism in America that Dion began many years ago, and includes reference to his walking southern streets with Cooke in 1962. He would put the song aside, feeling it was too personal, until he saw the 2018 Oscar winning film Green Book. You can listen to the song, one of my favorites of 2020 thus far, here.

We traveled this land back in nineteen sixty-two
We played the places that were home to me and you
We drove to Memphis, rocked a set
We walked the streets at night and smoked a cigarette
Here in America
Here in America
There was so much I didn’t know
About the way that life could go
Here in America
Down the block I saw the people stop and stare
You did your best to make a Yankee boy aware
I never thought about the color of your skin
I never worried ’bout the hotel I was in

Here in America
Here in America (In America)
But the places I could stay
They all made you walk away
Here in America
You were the man who earned the glory and the fame
But cowards felt that they could call you any name
You were the star, standing in the light
That won you nothing on a city street at night
Here in America
Here in America

You were told that we were free
This land is made for you and me
Here in America
Here in America
You stayed more steady than a backbeat on a drum
You told me you believed a change was gonna come
You sang for freedom but lived life free
I saw it in your smile and in your dignity
Here in America
Here in America
A preacher’s kid you’ll always be
Singing the truth to set us free
Here in America
Here in America
You were a star when you were standing on a stage
I look back on it, I feel a burning rage
You sang “You Send Me”, I sang “I Wonder Why”
I still wonder, you were way too young to die
Here in America
Here in America
Hey, Sam, I wish that you were near
I wish that you were here
Here in America
Here in America
In America
Here in America

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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