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Comrades From The North

Greetings to one and all to the story that never ends. Dylan is once again in the thick of it having started his second touring stint of the year in the wilds of Kent in this most inclement of British summers. More of that later but first is the unfolding story of a new studio album coming later in the year. Those who hoped that Christmas In the Heart would not be Dylan's swan-song can now breathe more easily – assuming that our man delivers on his impending platter. It is reported that sessions kicked off in January 2012 at Groove Masters, a semi-private studio facility owned by musician Jackson Browne where Dylan had already recorded Together Through Life and the aforementioned festive album. It is believed that he spent two months working on the new album with his current touring band. In March, Dylan’s erstwhile recording help-out, David Hildago, informed the world through the august pages of the Aspen Times that he had participated in the sessions adding guitar, accordion and assorted Mexican instruments. According to Hildago, who also played on those previous Groove Masters albums:

"It was a great experience. And different. Each one has been different, all completely different approaches. It's an amazing thing, how he keeps creativity. I don't see how he does it."

The album has already been aired for Sony staff in both New York City and London but, given the rigid conditions associated with these sessions, it is unlikely that any unauthorised comments will emerge. Word is that this will be a 10-track disc with a running time of 68 minutes and the likely inclusion of a 14-minute cut about the Titanic!

Meanwhile, back to Kent and the current tour. Despite the very soggy June weather, the sun was out all afternoon, anticipating Dylan's closing set later on. And he did not disappoint. Biggest surprise was the inclusion of a grand piano on stage which Dylan plonked away at merrily on most of the songs. This was a huge surprise given that he last performed on this most elegant of instruments at Hammersmith in 2000. The largely unsurprising set list was performed with vigour and animation and certainly bodes well for the tour ahead. And, better yet, Dylan took the grand piano with him for succeeding gigs.

Remember that old Columbia advertising slogan - "Nobody sings Dylan like Dylan". That has always been so true and there have been very few cover versions that have been able to enhance the originals – maybe Them (It's All Over Now, Baby Blue), Hendrix, of course, Fairport Convention (I'll Keep It With Mine, Percy's Song) and Jason and the Scorchers (Absolutely Sweet Marie). You probably have your own choices. However, nowhere has the verity of this slogan been so aptly demonstrated as in the latest tour version by Robin Williamson and John Renbourn. These are both great musicians and the Incredible String Band's first few albums are untouchable. However, their version of Absolutely Sweet Marie, featuring Robin's harp and vocal strains the song well beyond its elastic limit. Once heard it can’t be forgotten – and not in a good way! Their version of Buckets Of Rain, on the other hand, is pretty sublime.

We wish you the very best summer you can have - or the mildest winter for those below the equator and enjoy the shows you can make it to.

May you climb on every rung ..........

Mike & John

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