By Ray Chelstowski
For the last eight years the Dylan camp has been busy releasing long lost material from Bob’s past. These box sets have only added to the man’s incredible mystique. They have also released new material focused on his approach to music from the Great American Songbook. There he has maintained his history of delivering hits and misses. This has continued to fuel speculation that has been with him since the '60s. With each dud there seems to someone who publicly asks, “Are Dylan’s best days behind him?”
On the cusp 80 Bob Dylan has now released his 39th record, and one that will keep ‘em all guessing for some time to come. Rough and Rowdy Ways is brilliant record. It’s cut in the vein of Modern Times, Time Out of Mind and Love and Theft with music that is a bit shady but never quite dark. His best work is on those road house stompers like “False Prophet” and “Goodbye Jimmy Reed” where long time session players like Charlie Sexton snap into his groove like they were machine shop milled to Bob’s personal specifications. Although I do wish they found room in the studio for keyboardist Augie Meyers to have one more run with Bob!
Nothing on this record is showy and that includes both the musicianship and the writing. Instead everything seems to sit on equal ground providing a footing that’s remarkably comfortable. This record has great balance and shifts from rockers to ballads with the ease of a lazy Sunday afternoon drive down a long-winding road.
He wraps things up with the first song to appear from the record, the 17-minute opus “Murder Most Foul”. This may be the one crack in the sidewalk that proves difficult to patch. It’s excessive and like Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman runs far longer than needed. Fortunately, it’s the final track to an otherwise perfect collection of songs that prove Dylan ain’t done yet!