Bob Dylan – Together Through Life

Bob Dylan - Together Through Life

Bob Dylan - Together Through Life

If we went by looks only, it’s obvious by the cover-featuring two star-crossed lovers kissing in the back of a car-that Bob Dylan‘s new album is a rough outlook on love. This is his 33rd studio album and while it isn’t as hard-hitting, nor as gripping as his previous, Modern Times, Together Through Life is one of Dylan’s most relaxed albums to date. His perception is jaded and candid and although his stories are often filled with despondency, bitterness and despair, there is no denying the magnetic pull he possesses.

Initiated by Dylan’s promise to fulfill a song for French director, Olivier Dahan’s My Own Love Song, Dylan and his touring band took it from there. Dylan mentioned that he was listening to some Tex-Mex music while recording this and it’s easily recognizable with the lulling accordion that is featured on nearly every song. “This Dream of You” sounds like a walk down any Texas downtown street with its laid-back call and response feel. With every playful vocalization, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos’ melodic accordion allows the music to incite a warm and peaceful feeling.

Dylan and his band’s opening song is a stomping blues romp that starts off with the line, “Oh well I love you pretty baby.” Dylan’s focus and mastering of the blues has always been one of his most special, and especial, traits and his voice croons with an undying charm. While the Fender guitar moves from the dominant to the tonic, Dylan’s band honks away. And just a song later, Dylan is resentful as he sings, “Admitting life is hard, without you near me.” But it’s these sharp contrasts that make the album ebb and flow with that unmistakable Dylan songwriting.

Here, he is aided by Grateful Dead lyricist, Robert Hunter, whom co-wrote every song with Dylan, save for the aforementioned, “This Dream of You.” It doesn’t even slow down the mercurial Dylan who uses it to enforce his craftiness at being able to write sincere music that evokes raw emotion. “Life is Hard” is a broken down ballad that reminds us all of how hard life becomes when there is no one around to love and hold. And with this solidified expertise, Dylan uses his raspy and growling voice to pull at the heartstrings with just the right amount of elegance.

He’s taken full advantage of the guest artists he’s employed and with every waking breath, Dylan is in full control of his own ability. Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers lends his sparkling guitar and it all sounds fantastic on “Jolene” which is nothing more than a Chuck Berry homage. On other occasions, Dylan is relentless and downright misogynistic on “My Wife’s Home Town,” another blues standard originally by Willie Dixon. Snarling like an angry Tom Waits, Dylan sings about, yeah you guessed it, how Hell is his wife’s hometown. While in other forms, “Shake Shake Mama” romps and blows by with a wicked guitar melody and grinding drums. 

For some, this may come off as Dylan playing it safe but his never-failing methods are unlike many others. Dylan was quoted explaining how he felt him and his band made music that didn’t sound like what’s out there today and in many ways, this all holds true with Together Through Life. Upfront and blunt, Dylan is still in fine form and those bluesy stomps, the exceptional songwriting and that timeless voice are all front and center here.