A Nod To Bob: An Artists' Tribute To Bob Dylan OnHis Sixtieth Birthday
Red House Records, 2001
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/30/2001
Possibly no living musician in the world is as revered among his peers as Bob Dylan. Just look at who turned out for the concert that celebrated Dylan's 30th anniversary in the business.
With his 60th birthday just past, it seems only fitting that the musicians who have followed in Dylan's path revisit his music to give it the treatment it's deserved. A Nod To Bob: An Artists' Tribute To Bob Dylan On His Sixtieth Birthday is, with the exception of his Academy Award win, the best present that Dylan could get. (On a sacreligious note, am I the only one who thought that Dylan looked a bit like Snidely Whiplash with that pencil-thin moustache at the Oscar telecast?)
The 14 artists who cover these songs - some well known, others hidden gems for the long-time Dylan fans to re-discover - take the basic tracks, lovingly shape them into their own creations and send them back to their author, never losing the heart of what made them special in the first place. And, with only one exception, they all hit the mark.
That one exception is John Gorka's cover of "Girl Of The North Country," which just feels like Gorka deviated a little too far away from the soul of the original. That said, Gorka chose a tough song to cover, since I don't think anything will top the version Dylan performed with Johnny Cash on Nashville Skyline. And while I can't say I'm any fan of The Roches, Suzzy & Maggie Roche's cover of "Clothes Line Saga" will please their fans.
The rest of A Nod To Bob reads like a who's who of folk and blues artists - many of whom you sadly might not be familiar with. Chances are, when you hear their contributions to this disc, that will change. Artists like Cliff Eberhardt ("I Want You"), Norman Blake & Peter Ostroushko ("Restless Farewell") and Lucy Kaplansky ("It Ain't Me, Babe") all do wonderful jobs with their covers, undoubtedly also winning these artists new fans as well.
Three artists stand out among the crowd. Tom Landa & The Paperboys might have even outdone Jimi Hendrix with their jig-oriented version of "All Along The Watchtower". Martin Simpson shows there's a solid voice behind the impeccable guitar skills on "Boots Of Spanish Leather". And the French-Canadian group Hart-Rouge prove you don't have to understand the language to appreciate music's sheer beauty with their cover of "Dieu à Nos Côtés (With God On Our Side)" - remarkable!
One side note - I have to wonder why someone didn't try to license Etta James's recent cover of "Gotta Serve Somebody". Just a thought.
Dylan himself kept a low profile on his 60th birthday, but something tells me if he heard A Nod To Bob, he would be quite pleased. Chances are you'll feel the same way.