Tag Archives: americana

The Top 10 Post “Blood on the Tracks” Bob Dylan Albums: 8. “Together Through Life”

Together Through Life ranks as one of Dylan’s most fun albums.  Gone are the dark observations of Modern Times, and the travelogues of Americana on “Love an Theft”.  There are no major statements, it’s just the sound of Dylan and his band tearing through pre-rock and roll blues like only they can do.

Together Through Life is only the second time that Dylan has co-written songs with a collaborator – in this case Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.  As such, Dylan seems a little livelier on this album than he has in the past few records.  He’s clearly having fun – there’s audible laughs throughout and a cry of, “woo!” near the end of ‘It’s All Good'”.  It’s an album where Dylan seems comfortable being Bob Dylan an old man.  There’s no ruminations on mortality or a world gone wrong.  Instead, Together Through Life is an album almost solely devoted to one of Dylan’s other favorite past-times: women.

Throughout the album he’s scornful (“Forgetful Heart”), hilarious (“My Wife’s Hometown”), and even lustful (“Shake Shake Mama” – which at least musically is one of his best rockers in years).  The music on Together Through Life is given a kick by the addition of an accordion, which dominates many of the songs.  “Beyond Here Lies Nothing” comes off as something as  a straight forward blues number with a Hispanic twinge.  While bluesy stomp of “My Wife’s Hometown” borrows its music from Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You”, Dylan’s version just wants to tell you “that hell’s [his] wife’s hometown”.

The closest that Dylan gets to a major statement on the album is the sarcastic closer, “It’s All Good”.  Even from the beginning Dylan has always found a way to take cliched phrases and turn them on their head, and hasn’t done it this good since the 1960s.  Dylan sees a world with politicians telling lies, wives leaving their husbands, and buildings. Where the young Dylan might have offered a solution (or at least made us think we could change the world), the Dylan at almost 70 sarcastically declares, “You know what they say man.  It’s all good.”

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Songs and Memories: Ryan Adams – “The Hardest Part”:

Ryan Adams – “The Hardest Part”

From about 2005 to 2006, I was under the impression that Ryan Adams could do no wrong. He was something like a contemporary Bob Dylan – brilliant, prolific, and unpredictable. I had just started Graduate School for Publication Design in the Spring of 2006. In retrospect, it was an odd move. While the program was a combination of Graphic Design and writing, I knew shit about Graphic Design.  My introductory course in Design was on Saturday Mornings (a schedule that did not fit my lifestyle at the time) and Adam’s music was almost always playing in my car during the commutes.

For me, Jacksonville City Nights was the highlight of the trio of albums that Adams released in 2005.  Adams has often been dubbed “alt-country”, but Jacksonville City Nights is the album where he hitches a ride on a boxcar and takes it through America.  It’s a real country album, filled with melancholy, girls that leaves imprints on your brain, and absence.

The album’s highlight “The Hardest Part” could be described as something of an acoustic rocker.  From opening chords, Adams pulls you along with his tale of wanting to get out and away from whatever it is that’s been bothering him. He’s paid his respects to the company store, and the company boys.  His hat has been tipped, and he’s out.  Naturally though, there’s some complications and the hardest part isn’t all the shit he’s been getting – it’s leaving the girl behind.  The bridge is where the song really takes a life of its own.   The acoustic guitars are strummed with the intensity of a punk song and Adams can barely contain himself:

I could stretch that penny like a silver line
Rolling through the pages of my life
Underneath your name where it’s underlined
I’ve been turned around
I’ve been mystified by a true love

Ever since I first heard it, I’ve grown attached to those lines.  I’m not quite certain whether its the lyrics themselves, or the way Adams sings them – desperate, out of control, and also tender.  Those lines would become the centerpiece for my final project in my Design Course.   The class was assigned to “redesign” a CD cover and booklet, and without even thinking I chose Jacksonville City Nights.  I put “The Hardest Part” on repeat while I sat and designed the booklet on my computer.  Even though I was a novice at Graphic Design, that wasn’t the hardest part.  It was cropping, spraying and mounting the finished piece that proved to be a hassle.  Without realizing it, I bought boards that were too thick for the razor-blade, and in the process I sliced my fingers open a couple of times.  After numerous attempts, I finally finished it and ended up with a lower grade mainly based upon my shoddy presentation with the mounting.

If I had any shame, I would never let this piece see the light of day.  Luckily, I did get better at both Designing and the mounting.

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