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Dylan scores again with his
33rd studio album

Bob Dylan - Together Through Life
(Columbia Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: May 13, 2009
Bob Dylan

Review by Tony Bonyata

"I got the blood of the land in my voice," Bob Dylan croaks at one point during the song "I Feel A Change Comin' On" on his 33rd studio effort Together Though Life. This statement has always held true ever since the release of his first self-titled album at the age of 19, where his rough-hewn, nasally vocal delivery hearkened back to the rural Dust Bowl-era folk songs of the '30s. But somewhere along the way in the last 47 years later, the singer/songwriter's pipes have slowly ambled into a gruff, cragged style, suggesting that while the walls may have crumbled down there's still a solid foundation to build upon. There is little doubt, however, after hearing these songs of challenging relationships and heartbreak in a style that kicks up a storm of dust and a broad range of emotions, that the blood of American soil is still pumping through his songs.

Together Though Life roughly follows in the musical direction of its two stunning predecessors (2006's Modern Times and Love and Theft from 2001) as all three were not only self-produced by Dylan (under the pseudonym Jack Frost) but also traverse, although not quite as deep on this effort, the back pages of the Great American Songbook.

The album began as more of a fluke as Dylan's original intention was merely to write and record a song for the French film director Olivier Dahan's movie "My Own Love Song." This composition turned out to be "Life Is Hard," admittedly not one of Together Though Life's stronger numbers, and inspired the 67-year old musician to continue creating enough new material for this album. Good thing for us too, as many of these songs, while not as strong as the highlights from his last two albums, are still worthy additions to Dylan's immensely important canon of work.

Once again incorporating his touring band as studio musicians for this recording Dylan has also brought three other well-known talents in as collaborators - multi-instrumentalist David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, guitarist Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and the Grateful Dead's longtime lyricist Robert Hunter (who co-wrote nine of the ten songs with Dylan). The results are looser and rawer than his other works from the last decade, offering up songs with a bluesy swagger ("Beyond Here Lies Nothin'," "Shake Shake Mama" and the delicious swing of "Jolene"), along with rural blues spiced with both a Tex-Mex and Cajun zydeco feel courtesy of Hidalgo's accordian (most notably "My Wife's Home Town" and "This Dream Of You").

While, ultimately, not ranking up there with the best of his albums (such as Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde On Blonde, Blood On The Tracks and, yes, even Love And Theft) Dylan sums up this collection best with the closing track's title "It's All Good." It certainly is.

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