Supergroup Revives Lost Dylan Lyrics

Supergroup Revives Lost Dylan Lyrics


Lost on the River

by The New Basement Tapes

3 1/2 out of 5 Stars

In the basement of a Woodstock, N.Y. home in 1967, Bob Dylan and The Band collaborated to make what has become known as the legendary Basement Tapes. Most of the songs were written on the fly by Dylan with the help of some of the Band members, and the informality of the recordings is one of the many features of the record.

Nearly 50 years later, a collection of typed lyrics from that time period resurfaced, and Dylan’s song publisher asked famed music producer T Bone Burnett to do with them what he pleased. What did he do? He called in a few favors to some of the best and brightest out of the young — but established — folk/rock scene. They were dubbed The New Basement Tapes, and they were tasked with bringing the old lyrics to life and set them to music.

The New Basement Tapes are Elvis Costello, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons, Rhiannon Giddens of The Carolina Chocolate Drops and Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes. On the album, each of the artists have multiple tracks that they composed and sing to. Otherwise, they put their other talents to use on backup vocals, guitar, bass, piano, percussion or banjo. The complete recordings were finished in two weeks with 44 tracks recorded.

The result is a pretty sweet collection of songs that range in variety of moods and sounds. Whereas Costello saw the lyrics to “Lost on the River #12” as a slow soul song, Giddens envisioned it as a dark lament. Take “Liberty Street,” where Goldsmith wrote a folksy Americana ballad with vibrant pianos and soft, rolling vocals. Costello, on the other hand, made it into a climatic, cathartic rocker with every artist crying out in the song’s exciting chorus.

As a fan of each of the artist’s earlier work, hearing the little nuances each brings to the collaborative songs set to Dylan’s lyrics was delightful. While one song might have a certain feel to it, a raw James guitar solo comes in and adds in a completely new element to the song, or Gidden’s voice complementing the lead vocalists.

While the album lacks the sort of rawness that The Basement Tapes had (which weren’t recorded with the intention to distribute to the masses) The New Basement Tapes distinguish themselves as a new approach to Dylan’s masterful work. The music here is produced and clean. You won’t find many musical hiccups or nuances left in, but there’s a few, and the music is performed professionally well.

As a whole, the album is a fantastic, fun album to behold. Allegedly, Dylan was not a part of the process other than the contributed lyrics, so what we hear on this album is just how he heard it.

You can stream the album on Spotify here:

Stand-out Tracks

Down On the Bottom

Spanish Mary

Six Months in Kansas City (Liberty Street)

Musicianship: 3.5

Well, the music here for the most part is almost impeccable. There are a few tracks that land flat, or are forgettable. The album spans everything from bluegrass, mystical folk, Americana, soul/gospel and groovy rock. All of it is glued together excellently, which Burnett is likely responsible for.

Originality: 3

While not the strongest category for the album it definitely is still a strong element in the music. It’s great how each artist brings in their style to Bob Dylan’s lyrics, changing them as needed to fit the structure of the song. The criticism here is the music doesn’t seem to push any musical boundraies or explore new territory. The music here is safe, but it works.

Lyricism: 4

C’mon, we’re talking about Bob Dylan, the king of folk music. The lyrics ring true, heartfelt, creative, and complement the music. Then again, these are lyrics that didn’t make it to being developed during the original recording of The Basement Tapes.

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