Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Dirt Does Dylan
There could be an entire section of Dylan Covers Albums – if not in a music store, then certainly in my record collection. I’ve bought and sold many. A few stick around, most recently I’ve loved what both Bettye LaVette and Emma Swift had to say, and the way they said it – not least because they looked wide within that vast catalogue and found surprises, chose wisely.
Sometimes a Dylan cover is just a cover, it’s fine and stands up because there’s solid feet there in the very writing. But sometimes we get to think of the song in a new way, it casts a light from one side of the enormous shadow.
No such luck with this set by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – but there’s a lot of quiet charm here.
Things start fairly low-key but promising, the subtle country groove that buoys Girl From The North Country is something to believe in, and maybe even more impressive on It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry. But by the time of Country Pie we feel stuck in this groove, just as the Dirt Band has decided to stay stuck in one decade; yes it’s the decade that made Dylan – but why not cast the net wider?
When they do reach outside (once) to the 1970s it’s for a forgettable, nearly regrettable cover of Forever Young, making it almost (weirdly) valedictory rather than winsome and weary, which might have suited it better. But hey, I guess a band that’s been around as long as the Nitty Grits – even with newer members to keep them fresh – possibly wants to get all crow-y about staying forever young eh…but this just shows them up as having no snarl. Most obviously, She Belongs To Me is served with nothing approaching the woozy swagger that I believe a pre-requisite.
The longer this album goes, the strengths start to become the weaknesses. It’s all so polite – nothing nitty, certainly nothing gritty and not even much dirt – it almost feels polished enough to be a cover of another covers album. I thought of that 30th Anniversary Tribute Concert – and how this feels like a band covering their own curation from within that.
Which means if you’re a Dylan fan you don’t need this – but also means you don’t need this review, nor any reviews. Not only are you not listening to me and you’ve already heard this albums or are about to seek it out and drop the needle for some form of spite-listen. And I obviously respect that.
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