The road's washed out, weather not fit for man or beast....
Released September 2001
Running time 57.25
This is a Bob Dylan album packed full of nostalgic Americana - it is folky, bluesy, cajun, swampy, country, rockabilly. All of those things make for a nice gumbo of an album, very much influenced by a Louisiana Southernness, more so than on any other Dylan album. It is also part of the HDCD remaster series so the sound is top notch.
1. Tweedle Dee And Tweedle Dum
3. Summer Days
4. Bye And Bye
5. Lonesome Day Blues
6. Floater (Too Much To Ask)
7. High Water
9. Honest With Me
10. Po' Boy
11. Cry A While
12. Sugar Baby
"Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum" attracted much derision upon release many expressing incredulity that the man who wrote "Desolation Row" or "Like A Rolling Stone" could have lowered himself so far down as to write a song with such a title. The title is an easy target, however. The song is a lively, rollicking almost rockabilly romp, with some beguiling lyrics and Dylan's croaky voice rising above the rapid, shuffling beat. It has real instant, catchy appeal to it. Just forget the title. "Mississippi" sees the great ageing genius applying his now stately growl to a beautiful, slow-paced and emotive number. I love this one. Dylan's voice is just so appealing here and the song is both sad and uplifting, simultaneously. "Summer Days" is just an upbeat, toe-tapping joyful delight. Nobody can fail to enjoy this. Dylan sounds as if he is positively enjoying himself, his singing matching the guitar-picking, frantic rockabilly, Cajun-ish beat throughout. He packs words into the music - "what do you mean you can't of course you can..." he crams into a split second, effortlessly. "Bye and Bye" is a slow-paced fetching song, with and air of 1920s-1930s sleepiness about it. It is a song from days gone by, sung by a man who by now is already starting to seem ageless. The messiah has become Methuselah.
Despite the relaxing, pleasant nature of a lot of the songs, Dylan still finds time for some acerbic, wry, cutting lyrics. Any tenderness, and there is lots of it, is often tempered by a dark gallows humour and a constant awareness of mortality.
"Lonesome Day Blues" is a magnificent, chugging blues rock number, with a repeated guitar-driven blues riff and the usual blues thing of repeating the first two verses of each stanza. "Settin' my dial on my radio, I wish my mother was still alive..." Dylan suddenly emotively announces at the end of one of the verses. You believe him too. There are so many other wonderful couplets throughout the song - "he's not a gentleman at all, he's rotten to the core, he's a coward and he steals..." he spits out, "Idiot Wind"-style. Great stuff.
"Floater (Too Much To Ask)" is a country-style, fiddle and steel guitar number which has Dylan declaring "I'm in love with my second cousin, I tell myself could be happy forever with her..." possibly taking the backwoods thing a bit too far! Again, the song is packed full of wonderful lyrical images. The period coincided with Dylan starting to present radio shows full of Americana recordings, so the direction on this album was no surprise. "High Water" is a banjo-led ominously prescient tale of a flood, several years before Hurricane Katrina. It is a dark song, with dark images and a sonorously portentous vocal from Dylan. "Moonlight" sounds like one of those "Great American Songbook" crooners that Dylan new records. It is a slow country ballad, with a delicious slide guitar and a lively vocal.
It is back to the blues with the powerful, rhythmic "Honest With Me", more wonderful, exhilarating fare. I know a lot of people feel that 1997's "Time Out Of Mind" was Dylan's finest later-era album. Personally, I prefer this one. "Po' Boy" is another swampy, bluesy country-style romp and "Cry A While" is a copper-bottomed, grinding blues. "Sugar Baby" is a walking-pace, slow and mournful closer to what is a most enjoyable, highly-recommended album. "These bootleggers, they make pretty good stuff.." croaks Bob. So do, you old man, so do you.
Aside - strangely, Dylan looks considerably older on the back cover as on the front.