Together Through Life (2009)

1. Beyond Here Lies Nothin' 2. Life is Hard 3. My Wife's Home Town 4. If You Ever Go to Houston 5. Forgetful Heart 6. Jolene 7. This Dream of You 8. Shake Shake Mama 9. I Feel a Change Comin' On 10.It's All Good


It was one of the great success stories of popular music that such an icon like Bob Dylan could find overwhelming critical success during his latter career - especially since his career was so "hit or miss" for a solid quarter of a century starting way back in 1970. This album continues the trend of high quality material - even though it might be just a slight drop in quality compared to his last three releases. Part of the issue may have been quantity. Dylan seemed to be on a roll in terms of releasing recordings - both new material and his ongoing "bootleg" archive. It becomes easy for the listener to easily dismiss an album when the artist's last release hasn't even had the time to go stale. So if Dylan had waited a few years before he put this album out, it might have been received slightly better, yet Dylan never focused so much on the bottom line, and the story behind this record was that it was very quickly written and recorded, so there's a lot of honesty in the production.

When listening to this album next to his later releases, the style of this record is probably closest to Love and Theft in that the feel here is very celebratory, light-hearted and echoes a time in history really before anyone had ever heard of rock and/or roll. Had this been an album of "rare covers" from recordings fifty or sixty years ago, no one would have known the difference. As a matter of fact, he shamelessly lifts Willie Dixon's medley of "I Just Want To Make Love To You" on the song My Wife's Home Town, and unless you're familiar with the original recording (which would probably be very few people), you wouldn't be able to distinguish it from anything else here. He chases a lot of styles from the music of yesteryear, and whatever influences he was getting - country, blues, swing, big band, etc., it was obvious that this was designed to mimic all of those great styles that you just don't hear much anymore.

A look at the album cover (black and white, obviously) seems to reflect the sentiments of the songs here. The feeling on this album is all about the themes of love - both lost and won, and lyrically is just as simple and unassuming as the music. For the most part, the music is top notch. It takes awhile for Dylan to really get going, and strangely, the latter half of this somewhat short recording is much stronger than the first half. Starting with blues-ish Jolene all the way through the somewhat humorous It's All Good, Dylan manages to mesh all of the above styles in a way that makes these songs unique without compromising quality.

The first half of the album, falters a bit. I never really saw the reason why the above mentioned track that was originally Willie Dixon's is even here. It doesn't seem to add much, and apart from the familiar chorus, the song doesn't do that much, and all the chorus really does is remind you of the older song without really caring much about the newer one. The selections are strong, though, and had this record came out around 1990 instead of 2009, it would have been hailed as a masterpiece. It's still great, and you can't expect anyone, even Dylan, to be completely flawless.

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