Monday, December 23, 2013

Bob Dylan - Bob Dylan

As I have said numerous times, I am always surprised by the albums that I have not reviewed here - this one
is particularly puzzling as I went through a big Dylan phase a while back and thought that I talked about most of his records that I own, but it looks like I haven't. ANYWAY...

On this, Bob's debut album, his Woody Guthrie influences are highly apparent - his style, songwriting, choice of covers and entire attitude are all based on Guthrie and his mythos. There are "talking blues" - a favorite of Woody, and there is a reference to him in "Talkin' New York" - covers of songs like "House of the Rising Sun" that WG did, and even an ode titled "Song to Woody". Of course, Dylan had a new, youthful attitude and would grow to be completely unique, but his debt to Guthrie is obvious.

Here he has yet to have gotten too terribly political at this point, other than the politics of being a young folksinger in NYC. He talks more of his personal life than anything else, but with humor and wit. "In My Time of Dyin'" shows just how well he studied his traditional blues as well as the folk stylings of "Man of Constant Sorrow", the passionate "Fixin' to Die", and the re-worked, upbeat "Pretty Peggy-O". His cover of "Highway 51" shows beginnings of his later "It's Alright Ma" while his take on "Gospel Plow" highlights some percussive harmonica playing and spirited singing. He "borrowed" friends' arrangements, such as Eric Von Schmidt's "Baby Let Me Follow You Down" (where he credits Schmidt) and Dave Van Ronk's take on the old "House of the Rising Sun", which in turn gave the Animals their idea for the song.

Of course, Dylan had to play the wandering hobo, so the inclusion of John Lair's "Freight Train Blues" is logical. I've never heard the original (that I can recall), but here it is done as a yondelin', Jimmie Rodgers' styled number, showing off what he could do with his voice. The afore-mentioned "Song to Woody" is a serious homage and the album is closed with Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave is Kept Clean".

While this record may not have shown the genius to come, it is a strong debut for this young folk-singer and showed that his heart was in the right place and that he was passionate and dedicated. Certainly a strong debut.