October 9, 2012
I pay in blood, but not my own
Two-timing Slim / Who’s ever heard of him? / I’ll drag his corpse through the mud
When you reflect that the corpse in all human history most infamously dragged through the mud is Hector, and that Bob Dylan here in “Soon After Midnight,” the second track on his new album Tempest may be quietly referencing The Iliad; you begin to grasp how his hard and earthy verse, set to the pleasing beats and melodies of the country-blues — Appalachia to the Rockies America — is a real triumph.
I’m sworn to uphold / The Laws of God / You can put me out in front / Of a firing squad
That’s from perhaps the standup track, “Pay in Blood,” a song featuring a chorus so obviously Christian only a popular music critic could miss it:
I pay in blood / But not my own
Meanwhile, in “Duquesne Whistle” Bob Dylan’s ruined voice manages occasionally to resemble an aged Louis Armstrong, toiling gamely alongside an upbeat facsimile of something out of the 1930s or 40s. His voice, to put it diplomatically, may want for real range and tonality; but his band has always compassed musicians of depth, richness and talent. The fact that every listener kind of feels like he could sing Dylan songs better than the man himself conveys part of the charm.