Listening to Dylan’s latest ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’ released last year as a virus swept across the world throughout the West from the East, he seems to have developed a uniquely individual voice that is also fully in touch with his country and his times – the inner experience of which he helped shape as much as anyone. And because of his love of Biblical and literary symbology, it is also a transcendent voice expressing the cultural soul of the the past two millennia placing it far beyond the narrow preoccupations of today’s vicissitudes. So he’s in the thick of it as well as viewing the whole mess from the mountaintop. This appreciation for the importance of view is what separates him from most contemporary artists who tend to emphasize individual expression above all else or who are mere technicians who have developed a particular style which they become identifided with. Some songs seem to be a summation or last farewell but Dylan has never bought into sentimentality and is clearly neither clinging to life nor avoiding death. The consummate bard, he dwells wisely and joyfully in between, equally at home in the dark and the light. The opening song “Murder most Foul” about JFK’s assassination released on March 27th 2020 is extraordinary and seemed an elder’s clear and present warning of dark days coming which indeed turned out to be the case as we are now witnessing the possible passing of the Western civilization.
From the song whose title is the last line:
I traveled from the mountains to the sea
I hope that the gods go easy with me
I knew you’d say yes, I’m saying it too
I’ve made up my mind to give myself to you.
And from ‘I crossed the Rubicon:’
I stood between Heaven and Earth
And crossed the Rubicon.…
It’s always darkest before the dawn.
I turned a key and broke it off
And crossed the Rubicon…
The killing frost is on the ground
And all the leaves are gone
I lit the torch and I looked to the East
And I crossed the Rubicon…
Throughout the album there is a sense that the world we were born into is tinged with darkness and already now fading in the rear view mirror leaving a bitter-sweet taste along with the lingering perfume of an old man’s hard-won wisdom.
A couple of haiku mentally composed whilst taking in the welcome Mexican December sun and listening to the first few songs….
birds grasping the power lines
breath by breath passion ever yearns
for the impossible purchase
of unending permanence:
Murder most Foul: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfP5Es07vik