Album Review: Bob Dylan - Together Through Life

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Bob Dylan - Together Through Life
Bob Dylan - Together Through Life (Image courtesy of Columbia Records)

Minnesota's greatest legend of all, Bob Dylan, has a new album called Together Through Life. We were pleasantly blindsided with this one. Nobody saw the album coming until the early press reports dropped a couple months ago.

This album finds Bob sounding like a man on a mission as he and the band — including longtime mates Donny Herron of BR549 and bassist Tony Garnier — sound like the house band at a cantina just outside of El Paso or like a rough-and-tumble blues band from Chicago's Southside.

Dylan also enlisted longtime Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell, Los Lobos' David Hidalgo with some tasty accordion, and his old friend, Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, who co-wrote most of the tunes. (Maybe you remember Bob's Down in the Groove gem "Silvio," which Hunter also co-wrote.)

Dylan pulls off a surprisingly soulful, even tender vocal on the track "Life is Hard," a drunken love proclamation over a slow-and-muddy, Texas-inspired groove that makes me think of the legendary Doug Sahm. "This Dream of You" could also pass for a Texas Tornadoes song, straight out of Doug Sahm's songbook.

Dylan salutes many of his heroes on this album. On "My Wife's Hometown," he borrows from the legendary Chess sideman and songwriter extraordinaire Willie Dixon. Dylan sings like the devil's right hand man on this one. You can almost hear the evil laughter in his voice. His voice throughout the album is rugged, dusty, gritty, but surprisingly softer than it's been on recent recordings.

The blues is all over this album. "Shake Shake Mama" sounds like a lost Howlin' Wolf song, "Jolene" is a Chicago blues stomp and "It's All Good" is the kind of boogie blues John Lee Hooker delivered for 50 years. Bob sings in his best rasp, "Buildings are crumbling all over the neighborhood/but there's nothing to worry about/cuz it's all good/ It's all good." Yes it is!

Among the highlights are the swamp voodoo track, "Beyond Here Lies Nothin," and "I Feel A Change Comin' On" with lyrical nuggets like, "I'm listening to Billy Joe Shaver and I'm reading James Joyce/Some people they tell I've got the blood of the land in my voice." There is even a tone of optimism on this one.

Ultimately, it's nice to see Bob continuing to deliver the goods late in the game. Together Through Life is a worthy addition to his already monumental body of work.