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Together Through Life
Artist: Bob Dylan
Label: Together Through Life

Bob Dylan is an innovator.  This may be obvious to many.  The general opinion is, like many icons of his era, he did his best work in the 60's an never matched these accomplishments.   For those familiar with Dylan's cannon of work, it's hard to find a basis for this view with the existence of such gems as Blood On the Tracks, Desire, Slow Train Comin, Oh Merc and his long string of successful album releases in the '90''s and this decade.  After a period of directionless albums in the 80's, Dylan went down into his past to release two albums of public domain early folk and blues songs.  It was a daring move for an artist who had only limited records sales for a decade.  He emerged from this exploration as a solid blues artist.  I saw Dylan during this period fronting his band in Hollywood, California.   He stood as a lead singing blues man with his harmonica in hand.  It was another risk for an artist craving renewal.  It paid off.  He came off like a Chicago blues singer with strong rearrangements of his Blonde on Blondeperiod.  The audience could almost feel the fire of his new found creativity.  "The innovator Bob Dylan had returned, a bit older, but wiser, rougher and less willing to please his audience or the press.  He was The Dylan of the Blues.  
It was just after this time that Dylan began a string of critically and commercially successful albums of original material including the Grammy winning, Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, and the 2006 release Modern Times.   On these albums Dylan's writing edge returned.   His lyrics became sharp, focused and insightful.  He became more visual than in the past.  SinceBlood On The Tracksin 1974, his lyrics began to be a  form of word paintings.  Not coincidentally this began with his study of visual art.   
Dylan's latest release of new material, Together Through Life, extends his run of high calibre recordings.   He continues to use old forms emphasizing blues, early jazz and ballads, bringing his modern lyrical visions to them.  This album has a consistency in material, a stripped down and dirty style and continues to demonstrate his leadership in the small but mighty community of roots and Americana music.   Even the packaging and CD label is drawn from the art of the 20's and 30's. 
There is not a single weak track on this album.  "Beyond Here Lies Nothing" opens us to a world that lies beyond the darkness of _Time  Out of Mind_  into a uncertain but brighter time than before.   He updates  a Willie Dixon song with a raging, tongue-in-cheek, "My Wife's Hometown," and returns us to his affinity for 20's jazz ballads with "This Dream of You."  The final two songs bring us back to Christian references on "I Feel A Change Comin' On," when he sings, "some people say they see the Blood of the Lamb in my eyes."  The final song, "Its All Good," reminds that empty headed cliches may cause uf to fall asleep to the hard conditions in the world.
This is the '60's prophet turned hard-core blues drifter observing what he sees in the world.  The themes are perfectly suited to this time of economic hardships and societal uncertainty, while the music brings an edgy reality lightened by the use of the accordion echoing his days with The Band.   This CD may not reach out to those who are not familiar with Dylan's artistic journey.  But, for those who have been along for the ride for the nearly 50 years, its clear, this slow train isn't even close to the end.  
Terry Roland

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