Jakob Dylan – [Album]

Saturday, 03 April 2010

In listening to Women + Country, the first thought that leaps to mind is, “Wow – like father, like son.” After over a decade spent breaking into pop music with the Wallflowers and then continuing along a similar path with a distinctly more 'folk' bent, Jakob Dylan has jumped ship completely from his pop ark and discovered the joys and delicacy of some old country roots, but put a different spin on them. Such a stylistic shift might remind listeners of similar changes that Bob Dylan has made over the arc of his career but, unlike his father, when Jakob Dylan switches tacks like this, the scope of his interest is far wider (read: he takes more sounds into consideration) than that of his Dad; threads of Country & Western, Louisiana blues, avant garde and alt-country and more weave the cloth from which this album is cut.

It's dark and somber too – after Dylan makes his entrance with the fairly standardized fare of “Nothing But The Whole Wide World” and “Down On Our Own Shield,” the singer jumps clean off the map (not unlike how Tom Waits has been known to do) onto the spiraling and abstract plains of “Lend A Hand.”

That sudden twist will do much more than surprise listeners, it will flat-out shock them; but it won't put them off. With a little bit of help from Marc Ribot (who has been known to lend a hand to Waits too – from time to time), Jakob Dylan cranks an arresting, dizzying Creole funeral march than holds the imagination of anyone listening gently  but tightly as he steps completely outside of himself and effortlessly blows the minds of listeners; it's incredible.

Needless to say, “Lend A Hand” changes the tenor of Women + Country completely; it's a new light shed on Dylan's work that has never been seen before.

The twisted and dark Southern Gothic imagery gets more vivid as “We Don't Live Here” gets less personal for Dylan, but more thematic as banjos pluck, pedal steel regrets departed loved ones and a fiddle wails a sad song for all things lost. Between “Lend A Hand” and “We Don't Live Here Anymore,” Jakob Dylan has cast a captivating, irresistible spell that will have listeners anxious to see what will come next.

The darkness that Dylan has unearthed is obviously a surprise for the singer too as, after taking one more full-on dark stab (in Everybody's Hurting”), he recoils for safety in “Yonder Come The Blues.” The singer's not used to the ground he's treading on and it shows; like any game of shadow puppets, eventually it becomes difficult to tell the shadows from the light, but he likes what he saw and begins to wade back in a little at a time, beginning with “Holy Rollers For Love.” The darkness continues to build through the tremolo guitars and dry-eyed Leonard Cohen vibes of “Truth For A Truth,” the irony-saturated “They've Trapped Us Boys” and relieved by the sweetest love song on the record, “Smile When You Call Me That.”

By the time the last gasp of that Creole horn section fades out with “Standing Eight Count,” it sounds as if Dylan is exhausted as he breathlessly utters lines like, “How many fingers am I showing/How many tears are you withholding?” and a heavy-handed guitar stutters out one last refrain. There is weariness and elation to be had in that end, because no one in their right mind could have seen it coming; with Women + Country, Jakob Dylan has cast an all-new beginning for himself that is attention-grabbing and intriguing because it's quite unlike anything he has ever attempted before. When they hear it, listener will find themselves hoping that the singer doesn't leave them here, and that he picks up this trail again on his next outing.



Women + Country
comes out on April 6, 2010 via Columbia/Sony Music. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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