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William C. Altreuter
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I am generally suspicious of this sort of project: Bob Dylan's publisher approached T-Bone Burnett with a box of Bob Dylan lyrics from 1967 and asked if he was interested in assembling an album from them. Mermaid Avenue was okay-- Billy Bragg and Wilco's stab at doing something similar with a box of Woody Guthrie lyrics-- and there are other, similar projects, but still. Besides, I like Bob Dylan's melodies as much as I like the lyrics-- maybe more. Also, when did Marcus Mumford become a go-to guy? I mean, we can assume Burnett's good faith and competence, but a couple of hit songs with a banjo in them isn't the same as a credential in my book. Elvis Costello I'm okay with, and I've liked Rhiannon Giddens since we went to the Carolina Chocolate Drops show and she chewed out the guy who was yelling for "Cornbread and Buttermilk". That's the New Minstrelsy, right there, the performer telling the audience, "Yeah, yeah-- we're going to stick to our set list, so STFU."It isn't just music where projects like this bother me: Robert B. Parker respected Raymond Chandler, but Poodle Springs, Parker's attempt at finishing an unfinished Chandler novel had all its seams showing, and was a horrible, lurching monster. Or, in film, have a look at A.I., Steven Speilberg's movie from a Stanley Kubrick project. I suppose the work is the point, and the work deserves to be judged on its merits in every instance, but if that's the case than why does the artistic provenance of these projects seem to be at the center of their reason for being?

So that's where I'm coming from on this, and I've got to say that I just played the attached little number three times straight through, and really like it. Is it new old Bob Dylan music? Couldn't tell you, but it's a pretty good song.

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