25 October 2010

Your Weekly Dylan Cover [#22]

The Morning Benders
"Outlaw Blues"
Original Dylan version found on Bringing It All Back Home (1965)

The first side of Bringing It All Back Home is a watershed event in the career of Bob Dylan. It is the introduction of electric rock and roll to the masses from a singer-songwriter idealized by many for his acoustic folk songs that galvanized the masses in support of political causes.

"Outlaw Blues" seems to call the public out. The fifth song on the album, Dylan's rollicking, jangly blues has him spitting out the famous line Well I might look like Robert Ford/But I feel just like Jesse James. Now seen as a typical ying/yang lyric that Dylan is associated with, at the time it probably reflected the desire of the writer not to be identified with any cause, but rather an artist seeking to blaze his own trail.

[A side note: It is fascinating to note that "Outlaw Blues" was recorded in New York at Columbia Records Studio A on January 14, 1965. During the same three-and-a-half hour session, master takes of "Love Minus Zero/No Limit," "Subterranean Homesick Blues," "She Belongs To Me," and "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream" were also all recorded and selected for the final album.]

Our cover this week is from the San Francisco area quartet The Morning Blenders. Their version of "Outlaw Blues" - which sounds like a channeling of Grizzly Bear - was only recently recorded as part of a digital tribute to Bringing It All Back Home, a compilation which also includes performances by folk rockers J. Tillman (Fleet Foxes), Laura Viers and Peter Moren (Peter, Bjorn & John), to be released on 2 November.

In an interview earlier this month with the AP, band member Christopher Chu said he wanted to make "Outlaw Blues" sound creepy. "[Dylan] arranges his songs so perfectly that it's hard not to just want to do a 100 percent faithful rendition," Chu said. "But at the same time, that's not what I wanted to do with a cover. I wanted to pick a song where I could change it up a bit."
Chu, 25, knows Dylan's music well. Dylan is one of the first artists he began to obsess over as a young fan, along with the Beach Boys and Neil Young. He's convinced that he missed out on a golden era of music. His favorite Dylan album is Highway 61 Revisited. "His influence is so wide that no matter what age you are, you eventually run into Dylan," Chu said.

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