James Leroy Wilson's blog

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Modern Times

Bob Dylan may not be as culturally "relevant" today as he was forty years ago, but my immediate reaction to his latest, Modern Times, is that I like it even better than his other two recent masterpieces Time Out of Mind and Love and Theft - and Love and Theft is one of my favorite albums from any artist. (For those who don't know, Dylan abandoned that kind-of-singing/kind-of-talking thing that many found annoying, and actually sings on his recent albums, so don't let that stop you from giving him a listen.)

I think part of it is I like the idea of a 65 year-old man still capable of writing folk, western, and twelve bar blues at a high level. The tunes generally aren't terribly original (let's face it, all blues songs have the same melody), but the lyrics are always interesting and the arrangements sometimes ingenious. My favorites of a strong lot are "Thunder on the Mountain," "Spirit on the Water," Workingman's Blues #2," and "Nettie Moore."

Dylan was a non-entity in my youth, except for his odd contribution to "We Are the World," and one of the Traveling Wilbury's looked and sounded like him. I was aware of some of his songs, and a college roommate had a CD of "Nashville Skyline" that I liked, but I didn't begin to really appreciate him until the last eight years or so.

I heard that Dylan writes in a trance. I believe it; it seems to me that the output of other aging (and aged) rockers sounds a bit forced, like they're trying too hard to capture the old magic. That might even happened to Dylan for a spell in his career, but the last eight years tell us that Dylan succeeded in getting that magic back.


  1. It always seemed strange to me that so many blues musicians were so young. It seems to me you need to do some living to understand the blues. Of course, the original blues men were older guys, and the youngsters were by and large following the tradition laid down by them.

  2. Funny enough I came to almost exactly the same conclusion about Bob recently. I love the new album.