The tracklist for this, the second disc, looks very bizarre. I see 4 or 5 older artists, who you would likely expect to be on a Bob Dylan tribute (Joan Baez, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Billy Bragg etc.). But also I see a bunch of female pop singers, from the obvious (Adele) to the intriguing (Natasha Bedingfield) to the WHAT THE FUCK? (Miley Cyrus). This might be really really interesting. Let’s get started!
1. Queens Of The Stone Age “Outlaw Blues”: Shockingly, the “Outlaw Blues” riff does sound like a QOTSA-style riff, so this ends up kind of fun. Not a song you hear covered too often, so that helps a bit too.
2. Lenny Kravitz “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”: Like I said in disc one, if you’re going to do classic Bob Dylan, bring something new to the song, if not your own personality/vibe. This meaningless recreation of the original has no point. Unless you really want to hear Lenny Kravitz’ voice, skip it.
3. Steve Earle & Lucia Micarelli “One More Cup Of Coffee”: Closer to what I’m saying about bringing your own style to a song, but still not quite there. Dylan’s song is a duet with Emmylou Harris, and is highlighted by a violinist. Earle sings Dylan’s part, Micarelli does both Harris and the violin (I think both are her); the template remains basically unchanged. The mood here is a little different, but still, this does not quite reach anything special.
4. Blake Mills & Danielle Haim “Heart Of Mine”: I’m not familiar with Mills or Haim, but their track has some excellent guitar. Is that Mills or Haim? Good one, I’m really liking this version of a relatively obscure song choice. I think I’ll check them out further! Success!
5. Miley Cyrus “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”: Cyrus gives a mostly uninteresting pop country version of a Blood On The Tracks song. Simple. Not much here. I refuse to think harder about this. It exists.
6. Billy Bragg “Lay Down Your Weary Tune”: Following a pop star with Billy Bragg must have been someone at Amnesty’s hilarious idea. His raw folk style fits the mood of this song, and I like the touch of background singers.
7. Elvis Costello “License To Kill”: This disc so far is noteworthy, not necessarily for the great versions, but a steady stream of quite underrated song choices. So far, not your typical oft-covered Dylan songs (those come later in the disc). Anyway, “License To Kill” is an interesting song (“man has invented his doom / the first step was touching the moon”). Diana Krall’s husband completely cuts into it, and the result is a unique funky track. I like it a lot.
8. Angelique Kidjo “Lay, Lady, Lay”: More light funk, but this time with a more African feel from Beninese singer, Angelique Kidjo. Now we’re rolling! Costello and Kidjo really get into the songs and find new angles, which is what I am looking for here.
9. Natasha Bedingfield “Ring Them Bells”: Despite Bedingfield kind of oversinging, I liked this. Not much subtlety there, but sometimes that’s ok.
10. Jackson Browne “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”: very professional. Sounds nice, but kind of like it’s some generic studio band churning it out, in that plastic competent way. Where’s the spark of creativity?
11. Joan Baez “Seven Curses”: Dylan’s most famous ex-girlfriend has probably covered 50 Dylan songs over the years. So here’s one more, a rare outtake song. Baez gives a live version of this dramatic folk tale to the cause. Since she’s a dramatic folk singer, it works.
12. The Belle Brigade “No Time To Think”: I didn’t know the Belle Brigade, and Wiki didn’t tell me much about their style. I was not into their song though, their vocals feel a bit too sunny for this song to me, and at 8 minutes long, it was too much.
13. Sugarland “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You (live)”: oh boy, there are not many music styles that I just do not enjoy at all or can’t find someone within good enough to like. But modern Grammy-winning pop country music? That stuff comes close. Blah
14. Jack’s Mannequin “Mr. Tambourine Man”: Jack’s Mannequin is a slightly emo rock band. I don’t think “Mr. Tambourine Man” was probably the right song choice for them, at least lyrically, but the music is an interesting twist from familiar versions of the song. Didn’t expect to like this but I do.
15. Oren Lavie “4th Time Around”: Wiki tells me nothing about Lavie, except he’s from Israel, and his music is only described as “indie” or “songwriter.” Helpful! His version of “4th Time Around” is very cool though, and seems to have lots of dark drone-y instruments (harmoniums, sitar, etc.) which underline the dark humor of the song. Another artist I want to go check out more now.
16. Sussan Deyhim “All I Really Want To Do”: Another person to look up on Wiki–Deyhim is a ballerina and singer from Iran. Here, she takes one of Dylan’s more pop upbeat melodies and kind of similarly to Lavie, turns into something a little darker. This disc is ending much better than it started.
17. Adele “Make You Feel My Love (live)”: It has always amazed me how a song from Time Out Of Mind was discovered by pop stars and been a hit song. Billy Joel and Garth Brooks started it, before heading to Kelly Clarkson and ultimately Adele. It does feel like this was tacked on because Adele is such a big star, and she had the big Dylan cover hit most recently, but you know, here it is.
Disc 2 favorites: Elvis Costello, Oren Lavie, Blake Mills
Disc 2 least favorites: Lenny Kravitz, Sugarland, The Belle Brigade