Jakob Dylan: Women and Country

RIYL: Bob Dylan, Neko Case, T-Bone Burnett

Jakob Dylan is back for his second solo album, sans Wallflowers, and he’s delivered an Americana gem. There’s not much in the way of the rock or roll here, but that clearly isn’t Dylan’s intention. There’s a mature vibe that sounds not altogether unlike some of the recent output from his dad. Jakob Dylan has teamed with producer and longtime friend T-Bone Burnett (who also produced the Wallflowers’ breakthrough album Bringing Down the Horse) to craft an old-school album of bluesy, alt-country majesty. The addition of the fabulous Neko Case and her backing singer Kelly Hogan adds an extra quality that lifts the songs to a higher plane. Instrumental enhancement from pedal steel guitar, fiddle and banjo also help to generate an authentic, way old-school sound.

Much of the album sounds like it could work as a soundtrack for a Clint Eastwood western about pioneers trying to make it through hard times, and that vibe fits all too well here in this foul economic year of our Lord 2010. “Nothing but the Whole Wide World” and “Down on Our Own Shield” open the album and immediately establish a rich sound with lush, bluesy guitars and the sweet backing vocals from Case and Hogan. “Lend a Hand” mixes it up a little by adding in some horns that conjure the Preservation Hall Jazz Band sound of New Orleans. “We Don’t Live Here Anymore” comes out with a somber vibe, but in solidarity with those suffering from home foreclosure. The backing vocals provide a haunting quality, and there’s rich texture from some timely banjo plucking by David Mansfield. “Everybody’s Hurting” mines a similar thematic vein, a retro throwback to another time, yet tuned into a lamentable 21st century zeitgeist. Mansfield strikes again by adding some sad fiddle to enhance the vibe.

“Holy Rollers for Love” is a little more uplifting with a major key tone, but still follows the down-tempo American template that informs the album. “Truth for a Truth” conjures a “High Plains Drifter” gunslinger mode with lyrics that speak of “an eye for an eye, a truth for a truth.” “They’ve Trapped Us Boys” is almost a little bit of a hoedown with its walking bass and mandolin strums, and is enhanced with glimmering pedal steel and angelic vocals as Case and Hogan sing “shine a light, shine a light.” “Standing Eight Count” closes the album with a horn intro that sounds similar to the theme from “Rocky,” followed by the album’s strongest beat to wrap it up with something of a triumphant, upbeat vibe. (Columbia 2010)

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SXSW 2010 Quick Hits, Day 4: Jakob Dylan and Three Legs (featuring Neko Case)

This is where the weather gods ceased to cooperate, with a storm front moving in overnight that plunged Saturday’s high temperatures into the low 50s. It was a chilly, windy day that felt more like a late autumn football Saturday in Columbus than spring equinox in Austin, but SXSW fans would not be deterred. Rachel Ray’s day party at Stubbs BBQ was the place to be on Saturday afternoon. Free margaritas and bloody Marys were served, along with tasty chicken mini-quesadillas and meatball sandwiches.

Jakob Dylan played a half-hour set with the fabulous Neko Case accompanying him to create a bluesy sound with majestic Americana flavor that seemed to fit the gray afternoon perfectly. The sound was reminiscent of some of Dylan’s father’s recent work, blending a variety of retro flavors for an artful old-school vibe. The younger Dylan’s distinctive rasp sounded great, and even more so with Case harmonizing.

The last song, perhaps titled “Shine Along,” featured some mandolin on a melodic major key tune for a more uplifting vibe. The harmonies between Dylan and Case were superb throughout the set, like two great tastes that tasted even better together. Fans can only hope that these two will continue to work together further.

Jakob Dylan and Three Legs featuring Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, SXSW 2010
Photo by Steve Hopson