When it comes time to crack the plastic on a new Bob Dylan album every couple of years or so, the thing I always find myself immediately missing is the lyric sheet. Despite being one of musics greatest lyricists ever, Dylan rarely, if ever, includes them.
The fact is — especially at his ripe old age — Bob Dylan has no business being able to turn a great phrase the way he still so effortlessly does. Yet, Dylan's lyrics continue to amaze on his 46th album, Together Through Life, due out this Tuesday from his long-standing label, Columbia.
"I'm listening to Billy Joe Shaver, and I'm reading James Joyce. Some people, they tell me I've got the blood of the land in my voice," Dylan sings on "I Feel A Change Comin' On," one of this album's many standout tracks.
On "My Wife's Home Town" (which happens to be Hell), Dylan croaks out lines like "she can make things bad, she can make things worse, she got stuff more potent than a gypsy curse," with all of the world weariness of a broken down old horse thirsting for one last drop of water to drink. Yet on "If You Ever Go To Houston," he admits that "something always keeps me coming back for more, I know these feelings, I've been here before."
So there is no shortage of lyrical fodder here to keep Dylanologists busy pouring over every line until, well, until the next Dylan album.
Still, Together Through Life doesn't feel anything like the masterpiece that was 2006's Modern Times. There's nothing here with the hell hounds on my trail sort of desperation of "Thunder On The Mountain" or "Ain't Talkin'" — although the best songs on this record, like "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" and "I Feel A Change Comin' On," come awful close.
On the former, Dylan sings "Beyond here lies nothing, nothing we can call our own," behind a blusey, Tex-Mex flavored arrangement rich in crackling guitars and accordion. On the latter, while Dylan sounds optimistic, the song is measured by caution as evidenced in lines like "everybody got all the flowers, I ain't got one single rose."