Music News 6/18/2020


Bob Dylan, ROUGH AND ROWDY WAYS (Columbia, 2 CDs) – In Bob Dylan’s first album of original material in eight years. Dylan, singing in his “late period,” wizened and crafty voice, sets the landscape full of characters—historical, musical, literary, tapping, in Rob Sheffield’s words, “even deeper into cosmic American mysteries.”

Blues shuffles, ballads, and rockers like “Goodbye Jimmy Reed,” “False Prophet,” “Beyond the Rubicon,” “Key West (Philosopher Pirate), and “Mother of Muses.”

The album ends with the 17-minute “Murder Most Foul.” It uses the narrative of the Kennedy assassination as a “hallucination of American history as a jukebox, a late-night musical tour of the Desolation Row where we find ourselves right now.”


In 2011, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile, fiddler Stuart Duncan, and bass player Edgar Meyer, recorded The Goat Rodeo Sessions, joined on a few tunes by vocalist Aoife O’Donovan. NOT OUR FIRST GOAT RODEO (Columbia) is their reunion album, again mixing classical, folk, jazz, Americana (and a few Silk Road flavors) into a collaboration all its own.


It was announced this week that Chris Thile’s weekly radio show, Live from Here, was cancelled by American Public Media. Every Saturday over the last four years, Thile brought outstanding guests—veterans and new acts—and created fantastic live music with them. Backed by a kick-ass acoustic band and a weekly guest vocalist (most often Sarah Jarosz, Rachel Price, Madison Cunningham, or Aoife O’Donovan), Thile and his guests embodied the joy of creating music together.

Live from Here was scheduled to record their show at the Kennedy Center on March 14; because of the Covid 19 pandemic, that show (and all live shows from then on) was cancelled. I hope the show’s spirit lives on, and that it returns in some form in the future.


Both Peggy Lee and Norah Jones operate between the worlds of jazz and pop, and, though from different eras, both share an instantly recognizable approach, an independent spirit, and voices which have a smoky, understated power.

This is the centennial year of Peggy Lee (1920 – 2002), one of the most swinging singers to emerge from the big band era, who went to have a stellar solo career. ULTIMATE PEGGY LEE (Capitol) collects 22 of her greatest hits, like “Fever,” “Why Don’t You Do Right,” “It’s a Good Day,” “Black Coffee,” and “I’m a Woman.”

Norah Jones’s new collection, PICK ME OFF THE FLOOR (Blue Note), assembles all the collaborative songs she’s done in the last two years. “Were You Watching,” “How I Weep,” “I’m Alive,” and “Say No More” are some of the songs that feature Norah’s piano playing and singing.

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