Jakob Dylan planned the release date April 6th of his second solo album Women + Country well. It’s a laid back, intimate set perfectly suited to a warm spring night. Dylan seems perfectly comfortable in this setting – sparse acoustic guitars and harmonies from guests Neko Case and Kelly Hogan. Whether intentional or not, Case is under-used. She never flies to the front and completely takes over a song like she does in the New Pornographers.
Case’s under-use illustrates part of the problem with Women + Country. All of the songs are well constructed, but they tend to blend together with the exception of the Tom Waits inspired Lend a Hand. It’s hard not to listen to the horns and shuffle and want to growl as you sing along. Women + Country seems to want to say a lot and showcase Jakob as a song-writer in his own right. And it does that, but it never seem to lift off and inspire. Many of the songs seem too earnest and could do with an injection of humor and a change of pace throughout. This is something his idol Elvis Costello never lacked (and Women + Country tries to play like Costello’s King of America at points) or even his own father, Bob.
When the Wallflowers first came out, I didn’t particularly like them. Girls I knew in high school fawned over Jakob Dylan’s dreamy eyes and they were everywhere. My dislike for them, had absolutely nothing to do with Jakob’s dad. In fact, I did not get into The Great Bob (as I sometimes refer to him) until some years later. In retrospect, I actually think Bringing Down the Horse is a pretty good album – with one absolute masterpiece – “6th Avenue Heartache”. When I went to New York last summer, I became obsessed with that song. I noticed that it’s probably the closest thing he wrote in his mid 20’s to the career he has now. It’s a country-folk song disguised as pop-rock song about New York – more akin to his father’s writing style than he probably realized (or wanted to acknowledge at the time).
It’s no secret Jakob Dylan has been trying to forge his own career out of the lime-light of his father and has cited both Joe Strummer and Elvis Costello (two other major musical heroes of mine) as a major influence. When he released his solo album Seeing Things – it was a departure from the Wallflowers brand of straight ahead rock. It was a mix of Springsteen’s Nebraska and Elvis Costello’s King of America, and even his father’s own John Wesley Harding – yet it was his own. It seemed that Jakob Dylan was finally creating a career for himself that would stand the test of time.
And now he’s fully embraced the alt-country outfit he’s created for himself with his new album Women & Country. If he couldn’t be validated enough – he’s got the queen of alt-country – Neko Case – singing on over half the album. It’s not that he necessarily needs Case’s star power at this point his career- he’s probably sold more albums than her. But by adding Neko Case to the fold, no one can deny that Jakob Dylan is a great songwriter, and perhaps one day that will add him along with names of his heroes. Even now, he is no longer an asterisk attached to Bob Dylan.
Jakob Dylan is touring with Neko Case and Kelly Hogan? Sign me up. Baltimore friends – anyone interested?
I’m kind of at a block for something to write about today. I was listening to Bowie’s “Heroes” and then was reminded of The Wallflower’s version. I didn’t particularly like the Wallflowers at the time, and all the girls I knew in high seemed obsessed with Jakob Dylan. (I heard his solo stuff is supposed to be good, but I’ll refrain judgment on that as of yet.) When this came out I remember thinking, “Wow the Wallflowers actually wrote a good song!” (I’m ashamed to admit that when was I was 15 I didn’t know it was a David Bowie cover.) The times they have-a changed my friends.
But as I’m listening to it (it’s better to avoid watching the video as it’s from the Godzilla soundtrack) I’m left to wonder what was Jakob Dylan thinking? Musically it’s not embarrassing, but for the first verse of the song he’s singing like Christian Bale as Batman. For a song that often noted as showcasing Bowie’s vocal talents it’s odd that Jakob Dylan would sing like that.
Maybe I’ll update more later.