Talkin’ Bob Dylan’s Birthday Blues
How does it feel to turn 70? Just ask Bob Dylan. On May 24th Mr. Zimmerman turns 70, and with his recent albums and tours, it’s obvious the best is yet to come.
Here on Long Island, a great Dylan birthday bash will take place on May 17th. Paradiddle Records and Live In The Lobby will present Dylan In The Lobby at 7:30 PM, with tickets only $10, at the Patchogue Theater for the Performing Arts. The Long Island musicians who will be performing Dylan music that night include Miles to Dayton, Russ Seeger & Chris James, The Jay Scott Band, Katie Pearlman, Tom Groney, Leah Kay, Brian Gallo, Chris P Cauley, Butchers Blind, and the Ghosts of Electricity (question: What Dylan song does “ghosts of electricity” come from?).
Russ Seeger will also be appearing at the Stony Brook University Café on May 21st at 8 PM with The Kennedys, Rod McDonald, Rob Stein, Steve Sollog and many others for Bob Dylan’s 70th Birthday Celebration. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. The concert will be hosted by Charlie Backfish, who runs the University Café’s Sunday Street Acoustic Series and is the host of Sunday Street, every Sunday at 9 AM on WUSB, Stony Brook, at 90.1 FM. Closing out the series this spring are two not-to-be-missed shows. On May 28th at 8 PM at the First United Methodist Church in Port Jefferson will be an evening with Jimmy Webb. Tickets are $30. On June 5th at 7 PM, a supergroup of sorts will close out the series for this season when Maura Kennedy, Terry Roche and Sloan Wainwright will perform. Tickets are $22 in advance and $27 at the door.
For Volume 9 of the much-lauded Bootleg Series, Bob Dylan offers up The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 (Legacy). This two-CD set includes stark demos of Dylan’s earliest compositions from his Woody Guthrie-influenced songs, finger-pointing songs and the beginning of his visionary, personal songs that are among some of the greatest songs written by any one songwriter in the folk and rock eras. Although not considered part of the Bootleg Series, Bob Dylan In Concert: Brandeis University 1963, another previously unreleased CD of Bob Dylan music has just been put out by Columbia/Legacy. Recorded two weeks before the release of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, the tapes used were found in the archive of the late San Francisco-based writer Ralph Gleason, who co-founded Rolling Stone magazine, with Jann Wenner. The CD will only be available for a limited time. As welcome as these two releases and previous ones in the series are, even more anticipated are the works that Dylan recorded in the studio and especially onstage with Tom Petty.
Bookends: Boyd and Hitchcock
As a sidebar to our Joe Boyd interview, we wanted to report on Boyd’s appearance on March 11th at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan with Robyn Hitchcock. Boyd read excerpts from his memoir of the 1960s, White Bicycles (Serpent’s Tail), and Hitchcock performed appropriate songs from the likes of Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, the Incredible String Band, Nick Drake and others. Seeing Hitchcock live reminded me of what an amazing artist he is. The former member of the Soft Boys is fast becoming a cult figure that before long will join the ranks of the eccentric innovators he often covers and clearly admires. Hitchcock’s recent releases should not be missed. He has primarily been recording with The Venus 3, an offshoot of The Minus 5. The Venus 3 includes Peter Buck of R.E.M. Scott McCaughey of The Minus 5 and the Young Fresh Fellows, and Bill Fieflin, who is equally eccentric yet even more experimental than Hitchcock. The group has recorded three albums: Ole Tarantula, released in 2006 Goodnight Oslo, released in 2009; and the most recent, the 2010 release Propellor Time; all are from Yep Roc. In 2009, Hitchcock also released I Often Dream of Trains in New York, also on Yep Roc. The live rendering of his classic solo album also features a DVD of a live performance of the album and is another addition to Hitchock’s filmed works, which include his starring role in the performance film Storefront Hitchcock, directed by Jonathan Demme in 1997. Hitchcock was also the subject of Robyn Hitchcock: Sex, Food, Death… and Insects, directed by John Edginton in 2008. In 2009, Hitchcock also participated in the Pocket release Surround Him With Love (24 Hour Service Station), a five-song EP.
On May 3rd, Nonesuch is releasing a three-CD set of the music of Kate & Anna McGarrigle entitled Tell My Sister. Disc one features their self-titled debut, disc two features their second album, Dancer with Bruised Knees, and disc three is entitled Tell My Sister (Demos and Unreleased Recordings 1971-74). All three discs were produced by Joe Boyd, with the debut album co-produced by Boyd and Greg Prestopino. The remastering of the first two albums was done by Boyd and John Wood. Don’t forget, on May 12th and 13th will be a New York Celebration of Kate McGarrigle at Town Hall, produced by Joe Boyd, featuring Anna McGariggle, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, and Emmylou Harris with more guests to be announced and hosted by Jimmy Fallon.
With all this talk of great English folk and folk-rock, I would be remiss to not mention the hottest sound to come from the British, Isles these days. There is a huge folk-revival going on that was been spearheaded by the success of Mumford & Sons and its album Sigh No More (Glassnote). Three other artists who are right at the forefront of the trend are Johnny Flynn, Noah & The Whale, and Laura Marling. Flynn’s latest, Been Listening (Trangressive), is his second release and is beginning to gain momentum as the next big album of the new folk-influenced British sound. Flynn’s plaintive vocals, average bloke appeal and sound you’ll find yourself humming long after the CD is put away, are infectious. Noah & The Whale has been around a bit longer than any of its English folk peers and has a sound that has touches of Mumford & Songs and even Phoenix. The recently released Last Night On Earth (Mercury) has been receiving considerable airplay and the band does incorporate more pop and electronic touches to its sound then on previous releases. Marling’s I Speak Because I Can (Astralwerks) is easily one of the best albums of the past year. Reminiscent of Blue-era Joni Mitchell in her vocal delivery, sparse instrumentation and stark emotional fragility, Marling, on only her second album, has made an instant classic. Fans of Cat Power, Linda Thompson, Nick Drake and Sandy Denny will also be drawn to Marling’s vocal and instrumental approach. Marling was in the original lineup of Noah & The Whale.