Morning Star columnist
Nostalgia is powerful. Bob Dylan’s three-disc thirty-sixth album, Triplicate, offers dreamy ruminations on lost time, lost love, and uncertain promise, filtered through more than a half century of standards and ballads.
Dylan’s storytelling genius is sparked as he applies it to narrative and theme with a transforming ear for arrangement. His newer work (Shades of the Night, Fallen Angels) positions him as an archivist of classic American songs from the pre-rock era, and he’s damn good at it. For a man who’s written everything, it isn’t surprising. He sounds like a changed man or at least a Changeling. He did it before on Nashville Skyline (Lay, Lady, Lay).
Gone is his eyebrow raising rasp, because here we have Dylan the crooner, chilling in a gauzy realm of pared down orchestral arrangements (When the World Was Young, It’s Funny to Everybody But Me).
Willie Nelson is on a similar path of reaching back and finding regenerative inspiration from songs of youth and childhood. But these aren’t nursery rhymes or campfire ditties. Both men select and rearrange deep mood music: deep spell binders that last saw the light of day on dark North American nights, pouring out of AM radios framed by oversized dashboards.
That’s going way back, and considering the imagery of Triplicate, it’s surprising that Dylan and his band didn’t take on Bobby Darin’s Beyond the Sea instead of tracks like Sentimental Journey. It’s a glitch but a very minor one.
The main inspirations here seem to be Frank Sinatra (September of My Years, Day In, Day Out, Why Was I Born?) and Hoagy Carmichael.
On his earlier album, Love and Theft, Dylan was leaning on Stephen Foster to spectacular effect and gave that record an out-of-time character. These pre-Buddy Holly inspirations weigh on him but don’t weigh him down. These memories haunt and Dylan revels in the otherworldly moods he creates here. He still delivers and these autumnal recordings are amongst his most tender and consistent.
— Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest music releases every Friday for The Morning Star.