For The Record: The New Basement Tapes; Rhiannon Giddens

A few months back Showtime did one of those free weekend events. Three days of multiple Showtime channels and yet nothing to watch. I did eventually settle on a documentary called  “Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued.”

The documentary was good. The music was better. Which brings us to this long-delayed write-up on “Lost on the River,” by The New Basement Tapes.

As every loyal Bob Dylan fan knows, back in the late ’60s Dylan was injured in a motorcycle accident. He recovered in a house in New York and during this time recorded a number of songs with The Band that went on to be known as “The Basement Tapes.”

unnamedRecently a stack of unfinished song lyrics from that period were unearthed and handed over to record producer T. Bone Burnett. Burnett assembled a sextet of musicians — Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops) and Elvis Costello (no parenthesis necessary) — handed them the lyrics and tasked them with finishing the songs.

The result is a delightfully eclectic collection of tunes in which the words of Dylan are filtered through each artist’s own style. The album comes in a deluxe version with 20 songs and a … “non-deluxe” version with 15 songs. There are a couple songs I’m not completely sold on but most of them are great.

It’s also interesting to listen to how different musicians will handle the same lyrics, as in a couple of cases — “Lost in the River” features versions by Costello and Giddens while “Six Months in Kansas City (Liberty Street)” offers wildly different interpretations by Costello and Goldsmith.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 12.44.46 PMWhile watching the documentary we were really taken by Rhiannon Giddens, the lone woman in the group. As luck would have it, she was putting out her debut solo album around the same time we were watching the documentary. As luck would further have it, this was right around Valentine’s Day. Present solved.

Tomorrow Is My Turn is also a wonderful and eclectic collection of tunes, also produced by Burnett. There’s gospel, olde tyme, blues, country, Irish — something for every taste. Surprisingly my favorite track is “Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind,” an old Dolly Parton tune.


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