On Monday night, an appropriately laid-back crowd gathered at the Red Stag Supperclub to celebrate the release of Bob Dylan’s new album Together Through Life. The event, sponsored by Brit Rock at the Top, featured Dylan covers by local artists; highlights included Martin Devaney’s “Blind Willie McTell” and a surging performance of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” by At Any Speed.
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Together Through Life features Dylan in relatively relaxed mode, and compared to recent epics like Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, and Modern Times, it’s a minor effort. The sound is gentle and warm, and there isn’t much in the way of bite or snap in the wistful lyrics—nearly all of them co-written with Robert Hunter. The music and arrangements pay homage to the classic electric blues and soul sound of Chess and Stax Records, but without that live-wire whip. Still, any new Dylan release is welcome. He’s a model of artistic vitality, and he’s obviously enjoying having grown into the nostalgic old codger he’s always longed to be. He’s made an asset out of the wreckage of his voice—unlike, say, Gordon Lightfoot, an artist Dylan esteems. Lightfoot’s voice is also gone, but he hasn’t changed his singing style an iota since the 1960s; Dylan has turned the surly growl into an art form. He knows his voice is going to crack, so he makes it crack in all the right places, like that old pair of loafers you can’t bear to throw away. “What’s the use in dreaming?” he asks near the album’s close. “You got better things to do. Dreams never did work for me anyway…even when they did come true.”
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