Here's part of an email sent to the (Bob) Lefsetz Newsletter by Garrett Drinon:
"Music means everything to me--it defines me...I happened to catch Britney Spears
performing on Jimmy Kimmel last night, and I can't tell you how empty it made me
feel. She wiggled around like a beached fish with not even a pretend microphone to
mask her obvious lip-synching. Disconnected from everything around her, her 'backup' dancers did everything they could to save the show. And the people went wild!"
Side Two--"The Inspiring Side":
Various Artists--A Nod to Bob 2 (Red House): I've never sat down to figure out my favorite and least favorite tribute albums (or even what the criteria should be), but this one's often skillful and moving. In 2001, the Red House roster of artists recorded a Bob Dylan tribute for his 60th birthday, and A Nod to Bob 2 is the followup, ten years on.
The best idea behind this record is that some of Dylan's lesser known songs were chosen, and even some he's associated with, but did not write. Guy Davis neatly combines the folk side of "House of the Rising Sun" with a more subtle take on the crazy organ fills that lit up the Animals' huge 1964 hit. (I remember a very folksy version played by a guy named John Brown--how's that for a Dylan connection?--from one of my first days at college, a sort of "get to know the guys in your dorm" party.) Also on the traditional side, the recently regrouped Hot Tuna does a smile-laden "Mama, Let Me Lay It On You," recorded by Dylan as "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down" on his 1962 debut.
A Nod to Bob 2's best efforts are Eliza Gilkyson's "Jokerman," Jimmy LaFave's "Not Dark Yet" (previously issued on his 2007 album Cimarron Manifesto), Storyhill's "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" and Pieta Brown's "Dirt Road Blues." They're all performances that pull the listener in and don't invite comparisons to Dylan, at least immediately. However, Danny Schmidt's "Buckets of Rain" might be great in an intimate live setting but doesn't translate to record, and the same can be said for Lucy Kaplansky's "Every Grain of Sand," no match for Emmylou Harris' cover and certainly not even close to Dylan's terrific performance on 1981's Shot of Love.
It's far from perfect, but A Nod to Bob 2 is good for the soul. Especially if you've just read an email about lip-synching and an audience that's eating it up.