Odds and Ends: Tell Me How You Really Feel About the All-Star Basement Tapes Sequel



T Bone Burnett: puppet master?
  • T Bone Burnett: puppet master?
Maybe you've heard. Have you heard? News came rollin' 'round the bend yesterday that this fall, Electromagnetic Recordings and Harvest Records will release a collection by the name of Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes that will feature "a trove of two dozen unfinished Bob Dylan songs written circa 1967 during his Basement Tapes period." The release will be helmed by prolific, decorated producer and songwriter T Bone Burnett and will feature performances from Elvis Costello, Carolina Chocolate Drops' Rhiannon Giddens, Dawes' Taylor Goldsmith, My Morning Jacket's Jim James and Mumford & Sons' Marcus Mumford. The record will be accompanied by a Sam Jones-directed Showtime documentary, Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued, and is reportedly currently being recorded at Capitol Studios in Hollywood.

So. What? That certainly is a mixed bag of performers, though they are of course united by the through-line of making (or at least at some point being obsessed by) folk music. Elvis can basically do no wrong as far as I'm concerned, and they're all solid performers — though I'll admit having very intense feelings of "meh" in regard to Mumford and his various endeavors. And hey, I quite liked Wilco and Billy Bragg's Mermaid Avenue, which did basically this very thing with some of Woody Guthrie's previously unused lyrics. Although Guthrie of course died three decades before Mermaid's release.

It's hard not to feel a touch ambivalent about this, and that seems to be the trend — I heard multiple people say yesterday, "I don't know how I feel about this." (Though I also heard a couple of people say "Fuck this!") So long as Dylan is alive, shouldn't he be the only guy to write new material using Dylan lyrics? That said, Ketch Secor did a pretty good job of turning "Wagon Wheel" into an actual song. The L.A. Times reports that this collection "aims to honor the freewheeling musical spirit and collaborative creative process" that Bob Dylan and The Band had when they were messing around with the songs that eventually made it onto The Basement Tapes — but then, the eternally on-point Costello points out, “This is the exact opposite of The Basement Tapes: We’re in the best recording studio in the world, and we’re not in a basement.”

What I'm saying here is, I want you to tell me how you really feel about this news. Do you think it sounds like it has all the ingredients (good lyrics, good players, good producer) to be a plain-and-simple good record? Or do you think it's a creepy cash-grab that smacks of disingenuousness? Do you think we should all just reserve our judgment until we actually hear some of the record? What are the odds that it will be great? What are the odds that it will win a Grammy? Tell me how you really feel about the all-star Basement Tapes sequel.

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