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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

WFRL: Repossession Blues

The Prophet Zimmy
Repossession Blues ~ 1978

What Is Bob Dylan Laughing At?

Singing about love and loss, he still finds something to cackle about.

Bob Dylan has produced his first double-cackle record. In two different songs on Together Through Life, he rips out a little laugh at the end of a line. It's not a giggle or a jolly guffaw. It's a Vincent Price laugh. He's slipped something in your drink.

It's easy to see why Dylan is having fun. The record is a raucous indulgence for a musician who likes to hopscotch across genres. He pays homage to Chicago blues in several songs, but then he slips into alt-country. Next, he sashays along to a haunting Gypsy violin. At one point he gets funky.

It's not a tedious indulgence. The playing is tight, and the songs are about a minute shorter than they have been on his last few records. He's backed by his tour band and Tom Petty's long-time guitarist, Mike Campbell. David Hidalgo from Los Lobos plays accordion throughout, staining each song the way the violin does on Desire. The feel fits Ani Difranco's definition of a record as explained in one of her songs: "A record of an event/ The event of people playing music in a room." It's raw and organic with lots of little winks, both lyrical and musical—a pedal steel one minute, a collection of tight little guitar riffs the next. Wait, is that a banjo? This record is not, as Dylan said of modern music, "people playing computers."

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