We are all getting older, except of course, for those of us who’ve already died. Bob Dylan is still among the living, although judging from the most recent Academy Awards broadcast, he’s threatening to morph into Vincent Price.
Dylan is originally from Duluth, Minnesota, so it makes sense that a Minnesota-based record label, Red House, might decide to do a tribute album.
It’s a fine excuse to show the breadth and depth of Red House’s roster of artists. The CD opens with Eliza Gilkyson’s sweet and low-key version of “Love Minus Zero/No Limit,” and ends with Ramblin’ Jack Elliot’s live and folkily fingerpicked “Don’t think Twice It’s Alright.” In between, John Gorka delivers a beautifully somber “Girl of the North Country,” Spider John Koerner and Ray Glover do a rowdy country-blues interpretation of “Delia,” and Tom Landa and the Paperboys serve up a squirrelly version of “All Along the Watchtower” featuring a madding-to-play-along-with fiddle line. Guy Davis, Suzzy and Maggie Roche, Cliff Eberhardt, Nart-Rouge, Martin Simpson, Norman Blake, Peter Ostroushko, Lucy Kapalansky, Greg Brown, and Roselie Sorrels all add their own spins on Dylan’s material. The final results are so infectious that it’s hard not to grab an instrument and play along.
Executive producer Bob Feldman tackled the difficult job of weaving together 14 different recording sessions into one album. The final result has an almost seamless flow without the kind of abrupt musical changes that often plague tribute albums. David Glasser is also to be applauded for making all 14 cuts sound warm and natural without loosing their individual sonic signatures.
Most tribute albums are less interesting than the artist’s own original work.
Red House has managed to assemble an album that is worthy of being called a tribute.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s July ’01 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.