During the summer and fall of 1967, Bob Dylan had penned over a hundred songs. These were reserved for his sixteenth studio album, The Basement Tapes – the final product being released eight years later in 1975.While the album itself went on to be hailed as legendary, many of the other songs didn’t get to see the light of day… until now. The New Basement Tapes are Elvis Costello, Jim James, Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith, Mumford & Sons’ Marcus Mumford and Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Rhiannon Giddens. Together they’ve picked up from where Dylan left off, setting his lyrics to new music and producing Lost On The River – a whole album full of hidden Dylan gems. The first single off the album, Nothing To It, is a breezy, swingy track that’s sure to reinstate Dylan’s rock n’ roll legacy.
First things first, the track doesn’t quite reflect Dylan’s sound. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – rather, they’ve used Dylan’s lyrics to exercise their musical creativity. In fact, there’s a 40-second saxophone solo that’s pretty much paradise for any brass fanatic out there. This is a soulful number reminiscent of jazz and swing, especially with the heavy brass influence. That combined with guitars, drums and lazy piano chords, The New Basement Tapes have taken a carefree and playful twist on Dylan’s lyrics. The lyric content itself is rather meaningful, actually. Dylan doesn’t want to be greedy here, but he’s barely scraping by – “you don’t have to go into your bank account, but I’m sure you could give me something,” he writes. James brings life into the lyrics that Dylan never performed himself, and he beautifully depicts the tale of a desperate man. James’ emotive crooning is the cherry-on-top here, and when he is joined by his backing singers the entire track erupts into a plethora of feel-good vibes and harmonies.
There’s more of that where it came from. In fact, Lost On The River features 20 tracks which Dylan never got around to finishing. Nothing To It is just one of these, and it’s a slickly produced track allowing these various artists to channel their creative energies. It may not be Dylan himself, but it sure does put a new spin on his music. Ultimately, Dylan’s lyrical genius is again displayed for the world to see, this time through a band who are creative enough to do something with it.