Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways
Bob Dylan’s latest album Rough and Rowdy Ways is anything but rough and rowdy. Instead, Dylan – the great folk music philosopher – contemplates the history of the world and all that seemingly precedes him. While grand and freewheeling, Rough and Rowdy Ways is a poignant reflection of man’s place in time and proves to be the strongest of his contemporary albums to date.
Right from the beginning, Dylan seems imbued with liveliness and energy that some argued had faded for good. In I Contain Multitudes, the immortal spirit of Dylan croons over a delicate guitar rift, namechecking everyone from Julius Caesar to William Blake, Anne Frank and many more.
False Prophet and Goodbye Jimmy Reed, both boisterous and swaggering blues numbers, are the highlights of the record, breaking up Dylan’s extensive contemplations. False Prophet is especially enjoyable: it’s a pleasure to experience a master in his element, with Dylan’s grizzled voice and forceful lyrics complimented by a marching rhythm from the ensemble.
I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You, meanwhile, is a slow and impassioned ballad. The haunting backing vocals and delicate plucking of strings create an eerie yet tender impression, marked by subtle morbidity: “I’ll lay down beside you when everyone’s gone”. This focus on lives past is particularly apparent in Mother of Muses – an acoustic reflection on the tall figures of recent history, from US General Patton to Martin Luther King. Dylan’s delicate dedication to the mother of muses, a reference to the goddess of memory in Greek mythology, underscores Dylan’s preoccupation with being consigned to history.
The record closes with the monster 16-minute track Murder Most Foul – a brilliant account of the assassination of JFK with Dylan once again playing off the omnipresent spirit of time accompanied by mournful keys and violin.
Rough and Rowdy Ways is a personal history of Dylan that gives his many voices a chance to shine through in style. Yet, as he sings in Mother of Muses: “I’ve already outlived my life by far”, his attempt to capture this as some kind of historical epic becomes mired in disparate references and wandering verses. Despite this indulgence, however, Rough and Rowdy Ways shows that Dylan has certainly not lost his way.
Rough and Rowdy Ways is released on 19th June 2020. For further information or to order the album visit Bob Dylan’s website here.
Watch the video for I Contain Multitudes here: