Together Through Life (Columbia)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., May 8, 2009
Bob DylanTogether Through Life (Columbia)
If love doesn't kill you, then the devil hasn't done her job. "My Wife's Home Town," wherein Bob Dylan adapts Willie Dixon's "I Just Want to Make Love to You" to the tune of "I just want to say that hell's my wife's hometown," crackles in David Hidalgo's Day of the Dead accordion and the singer's Mephistophelian growl. The blues hue Together Through Life. Whereas 2006 predecessor Modern Times cops Muddy Waters' "Trouble No More" ("Someday Baby") and reiterates Memphis Minnie on "The Levee's Gonna Break," Together Through Life's thick Southern drawl croaks romantic disillusion instead of literal "High Water (for Charley Patton)" blues from 2001's raw, decade-best revitalization, Love and Theft. That album's negotiation of man's perennial quest came off gamely cantankerous starting on "Summer Days" ("Why don't you break my heart one more time for good luck") and sealed with the bittersweet "Sugar Baby." Modern Times flashes opener "Thunder on the Mountain" ("I've been sitting down studying the art of love"), then builds its case through masterful balladry ("Spirit on the Water"), tempestuous push/pull ("Rollin' and Tumblin'"), and finally remorseful self-pity ("When the Deal Goes Down"). After Dylan and Heartbreaker Mike Campbell grind biblically lite on "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'," built on the bleating ribs of Hidalgo's diatonic compression – the song recalling the squeezer's Los Lobos – Together Through Life comes alive only briefly when pleading lover come back. Bayou blues ("If You Ever Go to Houston") are no match for the doleful "Life Is Hard," with its crawfishing hook, fluttering mandolin, and old man's vulnerability in the face of lost love – think Marlene Dietrich leaning on a piano in the Weimar Republic. The bitter and brooding "Forgetful Heart" ("Why can't we love like we did before? ... The door has closed forevermore if indeed there ever was a door") commiserates grandly. Third in the triptych might have been the pathetic "This Dream of You" and even dollops of acceptance in the anemic "I Feel a Change Comin' On" ("We got so much in common, we strive for the same old ends ... and I just wait, wait for us to become friends"). Closer "It's All Good" offers the disc's best song, a brilliant idea and hook whose lyrics deserved more investment than that lent by Dylan and his collaborator, Grateful Dead word whisperer Robert Hunter. Beyond that lies nothin' except a wasteland, with nary a pulse for Life's second act. If Love and Theft, Modern Times, and Together Through Life constitute a new millennial perspective on the Bard's love life, somebody quick, turn him on to eHarmony.