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Issue #52 - January/February 2015 - St. VincentThe New Basement Tapes

Lost on the River


Dec 23, 2014 Issue #52 - January/February 2015 - St. Vincent Bookmark and Share

The period between 1966 and 1968 saw Bob Dylan write and record some of the best material of his career. Those freewheelin’ sessions where he laid down tracks with his pals in The Band became the subject of fans and bootleggers alike who couldn’t get enough of these songs that deviated so far from what they were used to hearing. Though a deluxe edition of the sessions known as The Basement Tapes was released, a separate batch of Dylan lyrics were discovered by the bard’s publisher and given to producer T. Bone Burnett.

Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Taylor Goldsmith, Jim James, and Rhiannon Giddons were tasked with bringing these lost lyrics from a several generations ago to life. This gave them the rare opportunity to take Dylan’s lyrics and use them as the inspiration for their own songs. Thus it shouldn’t be too surprising that songs sung by luminaries like Costello and James sound like a band fronted by, well, Costello and James. Yet hearing them work within the lyrical structure of a Dylan song is what makes this project sparkling, melodic, and easily one of the most delightfully unique albums of the year.

It would be easy for The New Basement Tapes to lean on the structure of the template provided by the Music From Big Pink era, akin to knowing the formula that works and stubbornly refusing to deviate from it. Between blissful harmonieslike on the James-driven “Down on the Bottom” and the beautiful simplicity of “Kansas City”the album is as loose and free as anything that Dylan and The Band recorded during that time. Above all, each track in its own way reflects each member fusing their sound while trying to weave in the original flavor of the songs. Somewhere, Bob Dylan couldn’t be more proud. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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