When we last left the ever-confounding saga that is Bob Dylan's now-superhuman recording career, he'd reunited with producer Daniel Lanois
, with whom he cut 1997's Time Out of Mind
, his most coherent and appealing collection in nearly a decade. Now the still-reigning prince of musical contrariety and potent wordplay is back with his most focused, well-played collection since 1989's Oh Mercy
, another Lanois production. One listen to the fade-in of the opener "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum" and it's clear that all Dylan's roadwork has shaped him and his band (including guitarist Charlie Sexton
) into a mighty musical weapon. And while his craggy howl continues to resonate, it's the songs here that astonish. A sturdy midtempo melody makes "Mississippi" the equal of the best numbers on Time
, which it was actually written for. He convincingly puts over the R&B swing (yes, swing) number "Summer Days." "Honest with Me" ("I'm not sorry for nuthin' I've done / I'm glad I fight, I only wished we'd won") is a driving rocker that packs a genuine punch. And the light, lounge-like "Bye and Bye" and the southland ramble "Floater (Too Much to Ask)" show extraordinary confidence. He's labeled these songs "blues-based," but in typical Dylan fashion what would promise to be the most overtly blues number here--"High Water (for Charlie Patton
)"--sounds like a banjo-based gunfighter ballad. But then that's this artist's gift: confounding expectations. --Robert Baird
At once relaxed and rocking, romantic and roguish, this 2001 album thrilled fans and instantly placed itself alongside the best albums in his oeuvre. These still sound fresh and inspired a decade later: Mississippi; Summer Days; High Water (for Charley Patton); Po' Boy; Sugar Baby; Lonesome Day Blues , and more!