Audio Farm: All About Bob
June 17, 2021
Memorial Day weekend passed last month, and for me, it will always be associated with concerts at the Gorge Amphitheater. Home to the now-defunct Sasquatch Music Festival, which I attended many times during my college days, it is one of the most stunning concert venues in the Northwest. Featuring multiple stages, spectacular views, and wildly overpriced food and drinks, it is an iconic landmark of Washington State and the undoubted host of many folks’ wildest memories.
It was also the venue of my very first concert, which, admittedly, I’ve exploited for bragging rights: the headliners were Paul Simon and Bob Dylan! While now, as an adult, I can comfortably humblebrag about my introduction to live music being two living legends, as a 12-year-old boy, I was miserable, dragged there by my parents against my will (to put it melodramatically).
To me, Bob Dylan was what old people forced us to listen to in cars, his voice akin to the sound of a dial-up modem. Acting like a cooler-than-thou brat, I brought along a newly released Harry Potter book, frowned for several hours, and scoffed at all the dancing, tie-dye-clad old folks that smelled like skunks. Man, oh man, what I missed because of my sour mood!
Ironically, when I sent my mom Bob Dylan’s newest release, Rough and Rowdy Ways, it was now she that seemed skeptical. My mom has long been a Bob Dylan nut, eating up almost everything he put out, but Dylan’s voice is now well-worn. I was shocked she didn’t like it because, for me, the record is Dylan’s best in decades. Musically rich and bursting with zesty lyrical imagery, it’s classic Dylan.
“I’m a man of contradictions, I’m a man of many moods, I contain multitudes,” Dylan sings on the opening track. It sets the tone for an album that gets bluesy, folksy, and even hymnal. On the highlight track “I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You,” Dylan gets lost in spiritual introspection: “My heart’s like a river, a river that sings, just takes me a while to realize things...I hope the gods go easy with me.”
The album closes with two long-form Dylan opuses, "Murder Most Foul,” which recalls the turbulent days surrounding the JFK assassination, and "Key West (Philosopher Pirate)," which finds Dylan “looking for immortality” in Key West. “If you’ve lost your mind, you’ll find it there.” Don’t let Dylan’s voice dissuade you from this marvelous album, truly one of Dylan’s best.