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Album review: Jakob Dylan's 'Women and Country'

J_dylan_women_country_240 The son of a legend, Jakob Dylan would seemingly have all the cred one could need. But after five albums with modern rock outfit the Wallflowers, each with a declining chart impact, and one rather quiet solo acoustic effort with 2008’s “Seeing Things,” a creative and career revitalization is in order. Teaming with alt-country scorchers Neko Case and Kelly Hogan certainly can’t hurt the effort.

Add a former collaborator and veteran producer in T Bone Burnett, and the resulting “Women and Country” is as rootsy and elegant as all the aforementioned resumes would foretell. It’s a comfortable fit for the hushed-voiced artist. “Truth for A Truth” accentuates Dylan’s sense of melody with steel guitar shading, a Wild West strut and seductive barking harmonies, while the three vocalists are up to something far more haunting on “Down On Our Own Shield.” 

Yet one can’t shake the feeling that the real star here is Burnett. Pairing Dylan with a number of musicians who helped shape the Burnett-produced Robert Plant-Alison Krauss collaboration “Raising Sand,” the 11 tracks of “Women and Country” are similarly dressed with low-key Americana atmospherics. The results, however, are mixed. 

“They’ve Trapped Us Boys” has a saloon feel and out-of-nowhere backing vocals, yet “Lend a Hand,” despite a horn section that could be backing Cab Calloway, is more forced than lively, and all the textures in the country rulebook can’t rescue “Yonder Come the Blues” from lullaby status. Worse, Case and Hogan are relegated largely to backing duty, as if to provide a sense of mystery that wasn't there from the start.

-- Todd Martens 

Jakob Dylan
"Women and Country"
Columbia Records
Two and a half stars (Out of four)

 
Comments () | Archives (12)

Jakob Dylan's new album has much more depth than you give it credit for possessing. It is in fact an extremely good album!

The understanding of the worth of an album—-and its attendant lyrics—-will really only be as good as the depth the listener brings to the table. What of Jakob Dylan's love of poetry that comes through so apparently, the wordplay, his continued riffs on—-and allusions to—-the traditions of literature and music . . . the riffs on W. H. Auden and Stephen Crane?

The author of this review claims, with regard to Dylan, that "a creative and career revitalization is in order." Are we tracking the same career? Are artistic merit, grace, reinvention, and continued growth the measuring stick of an artist or merely album sales? Plumbers are judged by their plumbing skills, athletes by their athleticism . . . how about judging songwriters by their songs? The songs on “Women and Country” have a truly timeless feel about them (in the best sense of that phrase . . . and true with or without the help of Hogan, Case, and Burnett). They are exemplary examples of the songwriting craft.

Jakob Dylan, for better or worse, and for reasons beyond his control, will likely always live in two long shadows—-his father's and the one that critics continue to hold over the son. If from a critic's outside perspective it seems cool to provide such shade, it's equally true it lacks brightness.

Matthew McLaughlin Malyon

Very well said Matthew! This album is great! We need REAL music and that's exactly what Jakob is doing! Thank you Jakob Dylan for making music.

While not a negative review, this critic misses the point here--declining album sales is not necessarily an indicator for "revitalization" of a career. That is largely because of shifting musical tastes. I would argue "Bringing Down The Horse" caught lightning in a bottle and was not normal for any band. How many albums has his dad sold? Not as many as people think. "Women and Country" is one of the best albums I have heard this year and last. Great songs that are interesting both musically and lyrically. That's all you can ask of an artist in my view. I hope he gets recognition for this album.


all i care is that he looks good. am i shallow?

I live in lower Alabama, and this weekend on my drive to New Orleans, this album will be playing over and over in the car, and it will be sweet and perfect.

Wow, how off the mark can this hack reviewer be? This is one of the most meaningful and sublime albums I've heard in years. I guess the mark of a good album is dependent upon its sales? Good luck in this climate. Nice to have something great to listen to Jakob! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I'm driving from Memphis to Baton Rouge tomorrow, thanks for keeping me company.

I wholeheartedly agree with Mathew on this one. Amidst the scores of musicians who have ridden in on the coat tails of their fathers, comes an artist who is often overlooked because of his iconic father. Critics are too quick to write him off as Bob Dylan's son. In truth Dylan the Younger has a lot more to offer than that. His melodies are just familiar enough to be addicting, never to cross the fine line of triteness. His lyrics are poetic, true and, dare I say, even rival those of his father's at times. I am a fan of Jakob Dylan all the way.
T-Bone Burnett never hurts. It is good to hear them working together. They are both legends in their own right. I think this album would have been good either way, as was Jakob's first solo release, but T-bone's ever so recognizable hand prints do lift this album to a new level. I think the Combination of musicians did a great job. "2 1/2 stars out of 4" is obviously an elitists score. Maybe our friend Todd just needs to give it another listen.
-Jeremy Adamiak

Reviews are wrong (or just not correct) all the time.

I agree with comments, not review(er)... Wow! And as Jolz in lower Alabama and Wylan in Memphis, I'm with them in SF/CA... this CD [has] been played over and over in car and home with great appreciation... I'm actually thinking of taking a road trip, maybe up through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho... just so I can listen to Dylan's CD on the open road over and over.

Of the father/son thing... dad has some great company/competition in capturing the essence of America in bold and truthful poetry -- in his own time.

I never listen to an album over and over - well, almost. And this one I am. I like this album. And yes, Burnett is a great producer. Leisz is a secret weapon. Peace.

Brian

thanks for Dylan for delivering the perfect road-tripping sound track. he'll be keeping us company on our way to the Gerogia coast and Cumberland Island.

Very good album.

This reviewer is an idiot with probably some petty personal bone to pick. Fact: this is a great album by any standard in any universe. It just gets better and better and better the more you listen to it. What more can a music lover ask for?


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