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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jakob Dylan

Women Country (Columbia)

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Following his two-decade journey from The Wallflowers to record-store discount bins everywhere, Jakob Dylan has quietly reinvented himself over two solo albums in the vain of Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen. 2008’s Seeing Things painted the heir-of-a-voice-of-a-generation in surprisingly competent, assured strokes of pastoral and subdued Americana. Here, Dylan rides red-hot producer T-Bone Burnett and wallows in the backing vocals of Neko Case and Kelly Hogan to another thoroughly OK outing.

Sepia-toned and sleepy, the entire soundscape might have been lifted directly from the cutting-room floor of Robert Plant/Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand. The occasional weepy fiddle, dobro, border-café horns and upright bass turned to 11 bear the obvious vintage-washed rock/country/folk mark of Burnett. Mostly it’s the perfect dusk lighting for Dylan to explore his world of buzzards overhead, sheets blowing on clotheslines in wide-open America and, definitely, blood on the tracks. What with the spooky Peckinpah-ish “We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” ready-to-give-up “Down On Our Own Shield” and wounded “Standing Eight Count,” strife and discord hang thick.

In fact, though he holds an unquestionably unremarkable voice, and the songs generally feel of a piece, much of his two solo albums offer the image of Dylan as a fighter—ignorant to criticism and what has to be the worst artistic shadow in popular music history. Or, maybe, it’s the sound of defiant reticence from a man accepting his limitations and making the most of them. Either way, he’s miles from “One Headlight,” and that alone is something to get behind.