Thursday, 9 July 2009

An Alternative Blood on the Tracks

Image: Woman on Bed by Bob Dylan

Critics usually claim Blood on the Tracks is about the break-up of Dylan's first marriage and Jakob Dylan has said that the album is "my parents talking". Despite those sad themes, after his classic 60s records I reckon Blood on the Tracks is the Bob Dylan album most commonly cited as a favourite. It's certainly popular with other artists who are presumably drawn to its rich imagery, great tunes and dense lyrics.

I first thought about trying to compile a covers version of Blood on the Tracks after hearing Tom Russell's interpretation of Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts. Like all good cover versions it seems to reveal something new about the original song.

I hope you enjoy these. As usual let me know what you think and suggest alternatives in the comments below.

MP3: Robyn Hitchcock - Tangled Up in Blue

Robyn Hitchcock loves Bob Dylan. He even wears polka dot shirts in tribute. This is from his 2002 album Robyn Sings, disc two of which is a live recreation of the infamous "Judas" concert at Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1966.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Joan Baez - Simple Twist of Fate

I'm undecided whether Joan Baez's ongoing fascination with her ex-boyfriend is touching or tragic. She covered Simple Twist of Fate on her album Diamonds & Rust which came out only a few months after Blood on the Tracks. You'll notice her amusing impression of Bob during one of the verses, a good gag that she still performs on stage.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Lloyd Cole - You're a Big Girl Now

We know that Lloyd's into heartbreak so it's no surprise that he gravitated towards Blood on the Tracks. Lloyd Cole's Dylan covers are extensive; he's also done Most of the Time, It's All Over Now (Baby Blue) and She Belongs to Me among others. This is from his 'lost' album Etc.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: The Coal Porters - Idiot Wind

Sid Griffin is another Dylan geek. So much so that he recently wrote an acclaimed book about the Basement Tapes that I really must get around to reading. I discovered his band's version of Idiot Wind on an Uncut compilation a few years ago.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Elvis Costello - You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

This, from the bonus disc of the Kojak Variety reissue is far more jaunty than Bob's original. I don't know when it was recorded but knowing Elvis's love of the tribute album it's no doubt appeared on some or other compilation.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Freddie King - Meet Me In The Morning

Although Freddie was nicknamed the "Texas Tornado" he moved to Chicago with his family in 1950 when he was 16. This rockin' blues version of the Dylan track appears on his final album Larger Than Life (1976).
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Tom Russell - Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts

The song that inspired me to make this compilation. Tom Russell is such a wonderful storyteller himself that he really makes Dylan's epic (and confounding) tale his own. Tom's joined on the track by singer-songwriter Eliza Gilkyson.
Buy: Amazon

MP3: Francesco de Gregori - If You See Her, Say Hello

I discovered this mournful, Italian version of the song on the soundtrack to Dylan's cinematic curio Masked & Anonymous but I presume it's originally from one of Francecso' earlier LPs. According to Wikipedia he also makes as organic olive oil called Le Palombe.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Rodney Crowell & Emmylou Harris - Shelter from the Storm

If the BBC ever repeat their coverage of Rodney Crowell's performance at the 2005 Cambridge Folk Festival you'll see quite a few close-ups of me going absolutely berserk during his version of Like A Rolling Stone. This is from the excellent album he was then promoting, The Outsider.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Beth Orton & M Ward - Buckets of Rain

The third duet of set; this was recorded at a 2004 gig in Sydney. If you like hearing M Ward do Dylan I'd also recommend his cover of Girl From the North Country with Jim James and Conor Oberst.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

Second Options
MP3: Jeff Tweedy - Simple Twist of Fate

As a Wilco nut I couldn't resist adding this as a 'bonus' track. It's from the I'm Not There soundtrack. In other Tweedy/Dylan news, Jeff apparently perfomed a lovely version of Forever Young at his son Spencer's bar mitzvah in May.
Buy: Amazon

MP3: Neko Case - Buckets of Rain

Another Carnival Saloon favourite that's too good to ignore. Neko's version of Hank Williams' Alone and Forsaken was a big hit here a while back so perhaps a post of some of her other covers will be forthcoming.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

Bobby Bonus
MP3 Bob Dylan - Tangled Up In Blue (live)

It seems only fair to include Bob singing one of his own songs. This was recorded at Boston Music Hall in November 1975 on the Rolling Thunder tour. If you've not heard any of the other tracks from that legendary tour, the Bootleg Series Vol. 5 Live 1975 two-disc set is an essential listen.
Buy: Amazon | 7digital

If you'd like to download all of the tracks in a zip file you can do so here: Carnival Saloon's Alternative Blood on the Tracks

While making this compilation I discovered that someone else has recently had the same idea (they even also used one of the Drawn Blank paintings). Five of the tracks are the same and you can read all about it at The Saddest Music in the World.

Related Posts
Bob Dylan @ The Roundhouse - my review of his April gig
Twenty-First Century Hank - covers including Neko Case


LilyofSpades said...

Joan Baez sounds a lot better and far less annoying doing her Dylan impersonation. Maybe she should sing like that all the time. ha ha

Great list. Good calls!

Mr. Lee said...

Great post -- thanks for the tunes!

If you are interested, check out my blog as there's a fair amount of Dylan content:

OutsideTheLaw said...

Very nicely done -- thanks for the download. On the copy I'm burning for myself, I'm going to add McGuinn's version of Up To Me (from Cardiff Rose or Born to Rock and Roll).

Peter said...


i'm sure you know them but there are some (imho) superior versions of some of the Blood on the Tracks, er, tracks by his Bobness. i only discovered them recently. you can grab some at

it's a top blog btw. as is yours.

JMDarkeyez said...

The Tweedy version is the best Twist cover out there by far. Tangled on the other hand is my territory :-)

Nigel Smith said...

Thanks for your comments.

@LilyofSpades - I hear you though I think Joan's voice became easier on the ear as she got older.

@Mr Lee - I've taken a look at your blog. Good stuff. You have a new subscriber.

@OutsideTheLaw - I've not heard McGuinn's cover. I'll check it out and add it (if I like it!)

@Peter - cheers Pete. I'm well aware of the 'original' Tracks tracks. They are good. Boogie Woogie Flu has a new subscriber.

@JMDarkeyez - I love Jeff Tweedy but think his version, while enjoyable, is a bit pedestrian. After your bold claim I feel it's my duty to share your cover (I found it on YouTube):
JMDarkeyez: Tangled Up In Blue

If you're a newcomer to the Saloon and just came hear for the Bob covers, do stick around, he's a regular in these parts.

The Modesto Kid said...

Nigel -- excellent stuff, thanks! a great idea. I linked to this from my blog:

I'm wondering whether the same thing could be done with his classic 60's records like Bringing it all back home -- Dylan's voice seems a really key element of those songs in a way where I'm not as tied to it on BOTT, Nashville Skyline, Desire, Slow Train.

The Modesto Kid said...

Also: looks like a very good blog here, I'm glad to have happened upon it.

Nigel Smith said...

@ The Modesto Kid - Thanks. I agree completely; only Dylan can deliver the best versions of those iconic songs. For the most part they are untouchable.

I was a little disingenuous in my post though. Although Tom Russell's cover of LR&TJOH is my favourite BOTT cover I originally tried to make a covers version not of Blood on the Tracks but of Desire after my colleague Richard told me it was his favourite Dylan record.

So, apart from Andrew Bird's excellent Oh, Sister and some dodgy versions of Hurricane I'd be really interested to hear any suggestions that would would let me do the same thing with that album.

Mr. Lee said...

Nigel, glad you dig my blog.

Another interesting take on BOTT would be this:

Mr. Lee said...

The link got cut off. The album I was pointing to is Mary Lee's Corvette album 'Blood On The Tracks' which is her and her band covering the LP straight through live at NYC's Arlene's Grocery.

Sheron said...

Me and my friend were arguing about an issue similar to this! Now I know that I was right. lol! Thanks for the information you post.
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Anonymous said...

What an excellent collection you have here. Thank you so much for sharing!

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