Rough and Rowdy Ways – the new Bob Dylan record

It’s not a secret how much of a Bob Dylan-head I am. I’ve followed Bob since I was in college and been to well over 35 shows over the years. So, his new records are events to me, not just normal releases. “Time Out of Mind” helped me get through the passing of two of my grandparents. “Love and Theft” was release on 9/11, and I’ll never forget the pain of that day and the hard lessons we all learned. I was already planning on picking up a copy, so I went ahead and bought it at the old Randy’s Music and Movies in Edmond with my good buddy Daveo. That record will always be etched in my mind. “I’m avoiding South Side as best I can.”

JFK Assassination Theory Inspiration

So, you can imagine my excitement when His Bobness dropped a new single this past March. “Murder Most Foul” was an unbelievable ode to the lost America. I’ll admit when I heard that he had a new single, even though I’m a believer, I doubted it a bit. But, when I listened to this new track walk through the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I was more than blown away. Dylan name drops and ties everything together from “It was a dark day in Dallas” all through the song. This was a song that changed me and changed me for the better. It’s been a while since a song affected me like this.

A few weeks later, Dylan followed up this powerful single up with the great “I Contain Multitudes.” If “Murder Most Foul” took put the edge on life, this song took it the rest of the way home. Nothing describes Dylan better than saying that he contains multitudes. This song took the macro of the previous release and amplified it to the micro level. Now, we were all connected between the two. I thought Bob was just dropping singles, and then I heard an album was on the way. Holy shit.

On June 19, 2020, “Rough and Rowdy Ways” was released. I pre-ordered the cd on online (yes, I’m still old school and like to have physical copies), so mine came a few days later than the official release. But, this was an album of all albums. It rocked my world like nothing Dylan’s done since his last original work album 2012’s “Tempest.” I loved his recent work, and even appreciated his Sinatra cover albums over the last few years. But, his original work still speaks stronger, and “Rough and Rowdy Ways” delivers.

Album Highlights

The whole album reminds me of the power of the LP, and how these were always viewed as complete works rather than the way singles are viewed now in the download society we live in. “False Prophet” is one of my favorite tunes on the whole record and is lyrically amazing:

“You don’t know me darlin’
You never would guess
I’m nothing like my ghostly appearance would suggest”

“Goodbye Jimmy Reed,” “Crossing the Rubicon,” and “Key West (Philosopher Pirate)” are other highlights of this record. They alternate between the nostalgic and calls to arms. A recent documentary about the Band makes one wax poetic about how they truly crossed their own rubicon when Dylan went electric. The aforementioned “Murder Most Foul” is a capstone to the entire course.

It’s been written a million times that Bob Dylan is back. The reality is that he never went anywhere. He’s been here all along. It his and the cosmic’s decision what art he creates. We’re just luck to get to experience it.