He’s Got the Blood of the Land in His Voice

I went to the Bob Dylan concert down in Springfield last month.

Dylan in Springfield is a collision of worlds for me.  I first learned to love Dylan while I was a student in Springfield and have lit out for many of his concerts while I still lived there.  But this was the first time I’d seen him take a stage in Springfield.  So, the highlight of the show? Mostly that it happened in Springfield, my wife’s hometown.

And since we are on the subject of My Wife’s Hometown:

I would have hoped for more selections (and stronger selections) from Together Through Life.  He did only two – My Wife’s Hometown and, during the encore, Jolene.  What goes through this amazing man’s head, I would like to know?  How does a poet with the genius of Dylan ponder the compilation that is Together Through Life and conclude: I think I’ll make My Wife’s Hometown and Jolene staples of my live performances.  But, then again, this is the guy who left the timeless Blind Willie McTell off of the Infidels album but reserved a slot for the ridiculous throw-away, Sundown on the Union, among other stinkers.

Happily, the set included more numbers from Modern Times than any other single album: Thunder on the Mountain, Rollin’ and Tumblin‘, Beyond the Horizon, and Nettie MooreNettie Moore was significantly re-arranged musically and I heard it with new ears.  A song of heartache, despair and paranoia and the fitting and wonderful lyric “I’m beginning to believe what the Scriptures tell,” Nettie Moore always made a strange impression on me.  The song is about many things, and I want to keep listening to it for new clues.  But, on one level, it seems to be about a hopeless man finding consolation and respite from nihilism in his own dark musings to the ghost of a woman he once loved.  The music of the live performance created a strange, foreboding atmosphere and Dylan’s delivery was like all the Shakespearean tragedies packed in and overflowing from a simple folk song.

So that was another highlight.

No songs from the new Christmas album.  I wouldn’t have minded that.  I love the new Christmas album.  My favorite track so far: Must Be Santa, a wonderful, rollicking sing-along that includes, apropos of nothing, a fast-sung list of 20th Century U.S Presidents mixed in rhymingly with reindeer names.  I’m not an uncritical Dylan fan, and I’ve read some harsh reviews by reasonable people panning Christmas in the Heart.  But I just know I’m going to feel good dusting off these MP3 files once a year each December and basking in their warm, sentimental glow.  And who better to sing cheery holiday tunes than an old Jew with the blood of the land in his voice?

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