The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Bob Dylan “Together Through Life”

    Back in 2006, when everybody else was pretending that everything was OK, Bob Dylan knew better.

    “The buying power of the proletariat has gone down,” he croaked on “Workingman’s Blues #2,” making like a cross between Karl Marx and Merle Haggard on his album “Modern Times.”

    And now that everything, or the global economy, at least, has gone bad, Dylan is singing a song on his new album, “Together Through Life,” called “It’s All Good.” No need to fret, however, Bob-watchers: The bilious bard has not turned into a happy-go-lucky optimist.

    To the contrary: “It’s All Good” is as snide and sneering a song as you’d expect Dylan to write about an annoyingly overused phrase that attempts to keep trouble at arm’s length.

    Story continues below advertisement

    “Big politician, tellin’ lies / Restaurant kitchen, all full of flies,” he rhymes, detailing a world where “a teacup full of water is enough to drown,” and that, no matter how many times he repeats the title, seems to be headed straight to hell.

    On “Together Through Life,” an uneven but engagingly loose 10-song set that doesn’t quite measure up to either “Modern Times” or “Love and Theft” (2001) Dylan has come down with a case of the blues.

    And the album’s title, it has been widely speculated, pulls from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass poem.

    For, while “Together Through Life” has more than its share of tender moments, and Dylan remains, at heart, a romantic, his third self-produced studio album also delivers the nasty sting of love gone bad and hope denied.

    Sometimes, his songs are bold enough to link his internal artistic life with the nation’s tragic history. “I’m listening to Billy Joe Shaver, and I’m reading James Joyce,” he reveals on the easy-rolling “I Feel a Change Comin’ On,” which is essentially his Facebook profile in song. “Some people they tell me I’ve got the blood of the land in my voice.”

    Other times, his miseries are more private. “Put my tears in a bottle, screw the top on tight,” he groans in a voice that grows ever more gravelly, but no less expressive as Hidalgo’s squeezebox wheezes in the border-crossing norteno “If You Ever Go to Houston.” And in the grimy mood piece “Forgetful Heart,” he’s at his most powerfully grim, in a song that questions the singer’s own ability to love: “The door has closed forevermore, if indeed there ever was a door.”

    All this might make “Together Through Life,” which features several songs cowritten with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, sound like an unrelentingly bleak endeavor.

    The now 68-year-old Dylan makes music that outwardly has less and less to do with “modern times.” “Together Through Life” continues that trend, and though it’s not the strongest of his 21st-century work, it still demonstrates Dylan’s ability to make music that connects with a resonating past, while speaking to the here and now.

    -Dan DeLuca
    The Philadelphia Inquirer

    Leave a Comment
    More to Discover

    Comments (0)

    The Spectator intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. The Spectator does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
    All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Activate Search
    Bob Dylan “Together Through Life”