‘Purple Clover, Queen Anne’s Lace . . .’

Originally posted May 20, 2008

There’s no doubt that one of the foundations of my listening life (and my writing life, too, for that matter) is Bob Dylan.

I have more recordings by Dylan – about 550 – in my digital collection than I have recordings by any other single performer. (That includes recordings with The Band and with various other performers as well as Dylan’s solo recordings.) Still and all, Dylan doesn’t pop up all that often when I go random, given the sheer volume of material in the RealPlayer. So every once in a while, I do a data sort and spend an hour or two listening to nothing but Dylan, from the feigned Okie twang of, say, “Talkin’ New York” in 1962 through the years to 2006 and the world-weary songster of “When The Deal Goes Down.”*

There’s always something new to hear. With that many recordings, I can’t say I know them all well – although I likely know the Dylan catalogue better than I know that of many performers – but even those songs I’ve heard hundreds of times sometimes confound and amaze me with a detail never noticed or an attitude never assessed, something frequently heard but for some reason never considered. A few things like that popped up this week when – in the process of assessing my list of great albums – I listened once more to Blood On The Tracks.

But those few things – considering the word choices and order in “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” was one, a guitar lick in “Meet Me In The Morning” was another – didn’t matter as much as taking in the over-riding sense of grief and resignation of much of the album. That’s not something newly discovered, of course. Since its release in 1975, Blood On The Tracks has been heard by many listeners – and I wave my hand here – as the closest Bob Dylan ever came to a confession of anguish, the kind of emotional purging that other folks have to pay a therapist in order to achieve.

Given that, I have a sense that it’s a tough album for other artists to consider when in search of songs to cover. A series of quick searches at All-Music Guide showed that the most popular song on Blood On The Tracks is “Tangled Up In Blue,” which shows up on fifty CDs, about half of which are Dylan’s own releases. That’s not a lot of cover versions, compared to many other songs from Dylan’s pen. The other nine songs on the album show up less frequently than that. Not that there aren’t some good covers of those ten songs out there; I know a few, and I’m sure there are many I’ve missed.

Among those I know: The Indigo Girls included a fine live performance of “Tangled Up In Blue” on their 1995 album 1200 Curfews. Cassandra Wilson recorded a typically idiosyncratic version of “Shelter From The Storm” for her 2002 album, Belly Of The Sun. As I noted a while back, Joan Baez did a pretty good version of “Simple Twist of Fate” – affectionate Dylan impression and all – on her 1975 album, Diamonds and Rust.

Texan Jimmy LaFave covered “Shelter From The Storm” on 1992’s Austin Skyline and included “Buckets of Rain” on his 1997 album Road Novel. And I know of versions of “Buckets of Rain” by David Gray, Eric Bibb and Steve Howe (yes, the former Yes member, who included the song on his Portraits of Bob Dylan in 1999).

There are others, too, of course, but the Blood On The Tracks cover I keep going back to this week is Shawn Colvin’s take on “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” Recorded live at New York’s famed Bottom Line, the track is the closer to Colvin’s twelve-song collection of songs written by others, her 1994 album aptly titled Cover Girl.

Shawn Colvin – “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” [1994]

*When reposting this for the archives, I checked on the number of Bob Dylan mp3s, and the total is now 774, including recordings with others (most notably The Band). Dylan remains No. 1 in the RealPlayer by a good margin over Bruce Springsteen, whose recordings currently total 506. Note added June 28, 2011.

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One Response to “‘Purple Clover, Queen Anne’s Lace . . .’”

  1. Saturday Single No. 73 « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] wrote a bit about Blood On The Tracks earlier this week, and readers might reasonably conclude that my favorite track from the album is “You’re Gonna […]

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