Bob Dylan’s Melancholy Blues: Together Through Life
Photography by: Bruce Davidson
Billboard reports that after just three days on sale, Bob Dylan’s new album Together Through Life is already on pace to top next week’s sales charts, which will mark the fifth time that Dylan has landed a Number One album. Dylan has never sounded as ravaged, angry and forceful, all at once, as he does on Together Through Life. It’s a gloomy-sounding, perplexing album. The lyrics seem to be dashed off in places, like first drafts, while the performances by Dylan’s current touring band feel like arrangements caught on the run during their tour dates. But there’s a relentless magnetism coursing through these 10 new songs, and most of it is expressed through Dylan’s vividly battered singing.
The shock of his voice comes through right away. Dylan starts the album as though he’s at a loss for words. “I love you, pretty baby/You’re the only love I’ve ever known/Just as long as you stay with me/The whole world is my throne,” he sings in the murky samba “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’.” It’s a stark, seemingly unpromising opening, except for Dylan’s delivery: a deep, exhausted rasp that sounds like he’s been beaten to a pulp and then left for dead. When Dylan gets to the punch line of each verse, he grumbles it with an audible sneer. As far as he can tell, there isn’t much of a world left to sit on.
Dylan’s harshly bleating voice is perfect for our present times. We’re a nation that was filled with hope less than six months ago, but now we’re drowning in a sea of red ink and pink slips. “Some people they tell me/I got the blood of the land in my voice,” Dylan cracks in his old Nashville Skyline-style sway of “I Feel a Change Comin’ On.” But the country in these songs is running on fumes, into brick walls. It’s a portrait of an ugly America, devolving into a mode of survival of the coldest and cruelest, and Dylan’s music here rubs it in our faces. “It’s all good,” he sings repeatedly with a cruel shrug in that voice, knowing damn well that it’s not.
Bob Dylan: Beyond Here Lies Nothin’
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