Bob Dylan - Together Through Life

Bob Dylan - Together Through Life (2009)

By all accounts Together Through Life arrived quickly, cut swiftly by Bob Dylan and his touring band in the fall of 2008, surprising the label upon its delivery a couple months later, then rushed into stores in April '09, just a half year after the release of the monumental archive project Tell Tale Signs. Given the speed of its creation, it fits that that album has a spontaneous, kinetic kick, feeling so alive that it's a little messy, teeming with contradictions, crossed signals and frayed ends. That liveliness turns Together Through Life into a much lighter affair than its weighty predecessor Modern Times, which was tinged with doom and had thematic unity, two things missing from this comparatively breezy affair. If Together Through Life is about any one thing it is, as its title and cover photo elliptically suggest, the enduring power of romance, how it provides sustenance and how its absence can make life hard. But all this suggests that Dylan has turned in a meditation of the meaning of life and love here, when its core charm is its very modesty. It's an old-fashioned 10 tracks, clocking in at 45 minutes, a simple set of songs co-written with Robert Hunter - Jerry Garcia's lyricist and previous Dylan collaborator, co-writing the irresistibly jaunty "Silvio" in 1988 - and delivered without adornment, its clean yet earthy production slyly emphasizing the musical variety here. Sonically, this is right in line with Dylan's 2000s albums, the sound of a well-lubricated traveling band easing into the same chords they play every night, but this isn't strictly roadhouse rock & roll: Dylan remains fixated on pre-rock & roll American music, emphasizing the blues but eager to croon love-struck ballads. In this context, David Hidalgo's accordion - which appears so often it soon ceases to be noteworthy - can suggest a romantic stroll down Parisian streets or a steamy sojourn with Doug Sahm on a Tex-Mex border town, but everything here is recognizably, thoroughly Dylan's mythic picturesque America that stretches from the hazy past to the barbed present. While the music is proudly, almost defiantly, rooted in the past, with Dylan borrowing Willie Dixon's "I Just Want To Make Love To You" wholesale for the riotous "My Wife's Home Town," there's no avoidance of the present here, with Bob even going so far as to turn the omnipresent catch phrase "It's All Good" into a mordantly funny rocker. Dylan's not just aware of the modern-day vernacular he's wound up with an album that fits the spirit of '09: it's troubled but hopeful, firmly in favor of love and romance, but if that fails there are always romantic dreams and sardonic jokes to get you through life...S. Erlewine

320 @
242 MB


CD 1

01 Beyond Here Lies Nothin' 3:50
02 Life Is Hard 3:39
03 My Wife's Home Town 4:15
04 If You Ever Go to Houston 5:48
05 Forgetful Heart 3:42
06 Jolene 3:50
07 This Dream of You 5:54
08 Shake Shake Mama 3:37
09 I Feel a Change Comin' On 5:25
10 It's All Good 5:27

CD 2

01 Theme Town Radio Hour (Interview Recorded in Studio B) 60:00

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