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Comrades From The North

Welcome everyone to this latest issue of The Bridge. As it goes, so it goes and Dylan is on the road again as we write. Those with greater wit than our good selves have dubbed Dylanís recent concert activity as the Never Changing Setlist Tour and he has not disappointed on that score. The set list has remained static throughout, (as we go to press minor changes have been introduced) and includes seven songs from the Great American Songbook. Audience reaction to these songs has been very positive, as it was in the preceding tour of Europe and the UK so it seems likely that Dylan will keep on rolling them out. To be fair, for anyone who hasnít seen the live performances of these numbers has missed a treat. Members of rock audiences can be poor judges of the quality of performances, getting carried away by the event and the moment (witness Paul Gambaccini's comments about fans at the 1981 Earls Court gigs) but these songs have been universally well received. However, one member of the audience at the Greek Theatre, Berkeley, got more than he bargained for. Seems that it has become a rite of passage for some concert-goers to yell out for the band (whichever band it is, doesnít matter) to play Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird. Well Dylan must have heard this innumerable times and he finally succumbed at this gig when the request was once again hurled at the stage. The band launched into the song while Dylan jiggled around at the microphone, centre stage!

The second album of American standards, Fallen Angels, was duly released in May to a largely positive, but definitely mixed reaction. The twelve cuts were all derived from the original 2014 sessions for Shadows In The Night (meaning that there is only one unused track from those sessions) but somehow donít quite match the standard of that earlier waxing. The voice wavers a little more on these cuts but the performances remain faithful and respectful. The undoubted standout track is Melancholy Mood, which captures the feel of the song perfectly. That Old Black Magic is also excellent and one can detect a wry humour running through this rendition. Can't help but feel that Dylan does these numbers so much better live on stage (something not unnoticed by observers) and perhaps that is his true purpose.

As you will read in Jotting Down Notes a batch of recordings from 1985 has slipped out. One of these features Dylan in the studio working on a batch of songs (some only half-formed) none of which have seen the light of day until now. They provide an excellent glimpse into what was going on between Empire Burlesque and Knocked Out Loaded. Certainly the latter album could have been so much better if Dylan had worked on (or even remembered about) these songs. The second batch is a lengthy (2-CD) rehearsal session with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. These are welcome releases and worth seeking out. Finally, and sadly, we must record the deaths of Merle Haggard (6th April) and Ralph Stanley (23rd June). Dylan toured with Haggard of course and seemed to offer a less than complimentary opinion of him in his Musicares speech last year. However, all was explained when Dylan clarified his comments:

"I wasn't dissing Merle, not the Merle I know. What I was talking about happened a long time ago, maybe in the late Sixties. Merle had that song out called 'Fighting Side of Me' and I'd seen an interview with him where he was going on about hippies and Dylan and the counterculture, and it kind of stuck in my mind and hurt, lumping me in with everything he didn't like. But of course times have changed and he's changed too. If hippies were around today, he'd be on their side and he himself is part of the countercultureÖ so yeah, things change. I've toured with him and have the highest regard for him, his songs, his talent - I even wanted him to play fiddle on one of my records and his Jimmie Rodgers tribute album is one of my favourites that I never get tired of listening to. He's also a bit of a philosopher. He's serious and he's funny. He's a complete man and we're friends these days. We have a lot in common"

Stanley was a huge influence on Dylan, something he acknowledged, and he collaborated with him on the song The Lonesome River on the album Clinch Mountain Country as well as incorporating Stanley songs in his set. Well that's all for now Ė here's wishing you the best.

May you climb on every rung ..........

Mike & John

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