Bob Dylan, possibly the greatest songwriter and lyricist to have ever lived, has been paid due tribute in The New Basement Tapes interpretation of previously unseen words written by the man himself in 1967. Produced by T Bone Burnett and featuring the musical input of Elvis Costello, Jim James, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith and Marcus Mumford, Lost On The River breathes life into the previously forgotten lyrics of a twenty-six year old Dylan, reminding us of his unparalleled talent and lasting cultural impact. Capturing more than forty recordings, each musician brings their own unique interpretations to the table and Burnett has allowed us to hear different takes of the same song by including them on the album with the originator in the lead making for a particularly interesting listen.
Opening with Jim James’ version of Down on the Bottom, we are immediately drawn in by the inviting tones and steady, comfortable grooves that emit a warm, progressive, laid back yet still epic, rock feel. Of particular mention is Kansas City, which secretly features Johnny Depp on guitar after Elvis Costello couldn’t make it to the recording. A great track that makes listeners feel happy and sad at the same time with classic folk chord progressions and lyrics translated magically by the vocal styling of Marcus Mumford.
Spanish Mary has a quietly simmering layer of instruments woven together with a smooth sounding electric bass. Distinctly country and yet mysterious in nature, the tune floats and weaves between moments of quiet, where Giddens’ vocals soar through Dylan’s evocative lyrics and crescendos of sound, with driving toms and minstrel styled banjo lines. Equally as rich is the whimsical sound of Hidee Hidee Ho which brings to mind the feeling of hot Summer breezes and makeshift rafts drifting down lazy rivers in the Deep South. Bluesy and playful there’s a real sense of improvisation which echoes the original off-the-cuff recordings captured in 1967.
Married To My Hack, Nothing To It and When I Get My Hands On You capture the free spirited and collaborative energy of the original basement sessions while the varied instrumentation of the entire album that includes 12 string guitars, mandocasters, organs, ukuleles, mellotrons, banjos, fiddles, mandolins and synths adds a wonderful spectrum of textures.
It seems incredibly hard these days to find an album full of quality tracks but the crew in The New Basement Tapes have done just that. Thanks to the distinctive guidance of Grammy winning musician, songwriter and producer T Bone Burnett, Lost On The River offers something for everyone. Bob Dylan fans, country/folk/rock listeners, and modern music lovers alike will all find something to connect with, whether it be Dylan’s words themselves, or the musicians interpretations of them.
With such great material to work with the collaborators here have not let us down, honouring the greatness of their original creator. Forty-seven years in the making the first edition of The New Basement Tapes is a wonderful addition to any listeners library. Stayed tuned for volume two set to be released November 11 along with the much anticipated documentary captured by filmmaker Sam Jones.