Album Review

Women and Country

Women and Country

by Jakob Dylan

5.5 / 10
27th April 2010

Reviewed by Gareth Meade

As soon as this album begins, it’s obvious that Jakob Dylan is Bob Dylan’s son. Of course, everyone knows that, but for the first few seconds of ‘Nothing But The Whole Wide World’, it actually sounds like we should care. However, as quickly as you’ve cocked your eyebrow in surprise, it’ll just as quickly drop down to its original position once the song digresses into middle of the road mediocrity.

The main problem with Women and Country, apart from how safe it plays out, is that Jakob Dylan doesn’t comfortably fit the persona of a weather beaten troubadour; no matter how many double bass, lap steel or shuffling snare drum players he surrounds his unremarkable voice with. Take for example the line “I’m richer than a poor man should be”, from penultimate track ‘Smile When You Call Me That’. No matter what kind of character Dylan is trying to evoke, it just isn’t believable.

So in case you were left wondering, this album does transport us to the country, but it keeps us at a safe distance rather than allowing you to feel the untamed land beneath your feet. In simpler terms, this is more The Gambler than The Times They Are A Changin’. Things do manage to get interesting here and there though, such as on ‘Lend A Hand’, where all that’s missing is the gravelly voice of Tom Waits. Similarly with ‘We Don’t Live Here Anymore’, the song has promise but is missing a credible vocalist to fulfil it. No matter how much Dylan sounds like Springsteen on the song, he most certainly isn’t.

Basically, there is nothing offensive about this album, but there is nothing particularly exciting either. In the background, it works as a competent void filler, you might even find yourself turning it up at times. But it’s unlikely that it’ll be long before something else dominates your attention and you find yourself turning it down again, or turning it off altogether.

Total: 4
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Thanks for this review. However, I believe Jakob Dylan’s new album has more depth than you give it credit for possessing. It is in fact an extremely good album!

The understanding of the worth of an album—and its attendant lyrics—will really only be as good as the depth the listener brings to the table. (This is not a critique of the reviewer, per say, but what I’d propose is an artistic/hermeneutic fact.) What of Jakob Dylan’s love of poetry that comes through so apparently, the wordplay, his continued riffs on—and allusions to—the traditions of literature and music . . . the riffs on W. H. Auden and Stephen Crane?

The author of this review claims, with regard to Dylan’s album, that "it works as a competent void filler." Are we listening to (and reading) the same songs and lyrics? His lyrics, in fact, have achieved what artists using words strive to create: deceptive simplicity with benthic depth and suggestiveness. The songs and music on “Women and Country” have a truly timeless feel about them (in the best sense of that phrase . . . and true with or without the help of Hogan, Case, and Burnett). They are exemplary examples of the songwriting craft.

I predict the album will have a notable impact . . . and won’t be surprised in the next decade if 3 to 5 of these songs show up as cover tunes on other artist’s albums.

Jakob Dylan, for better or worse, and for reasons beyond his control, will likely always live in two long shadows—his father’s and the one that critics continue to hold over the son. You can have your opinions, Gareth. And I truly mean no personal slight here, but if from any critic’s outside perspective it seems cool to provide such shade, it’s equally true it lacks brightness.

Thanks again for your review of the album.

Matt Malyon

Posted by Matt Malyon - anonymous 6 years ago

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I wholeheartedly appreciate your comments Matt, and I hope that anyone who reads this review also reads your erudite observations.

I would say that I did listen to the album with an open mind in regards to his parentage, but repeat listens just led to me realise that if he is going to attempt any genre remotely close to that of his father, any avoidance of his shadow is impossible. I struggled to separate the two, as I would have with any album that had a country, folk or blues bent about it.

But such is the usefulness of having the comments facility that people are able to provide their perfectly valid opinion. And what you've done is enhance the likelihood of people making a more informed decision of whether or not to listen to this album.

So again, thank you for your comments Matt.


Posted by 25466 6 years ago

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The reviewer claims that he can't get past the fact that Jakob Dylan is Bob Dylan's son and so when he sings words like "I'm richer than a poor man should be," it's not credible. Isn't this really a critique of the reviewer more than of Dylan? The context of that lyric is critically missing, "if time were money" -- the singer is painfully lonely. Given the circumstances of Dylan's existence (critics can't get past his lineage) it seems pretty believable to me.

I agree with Matt's comments that the songs are really powerful images packed with line after line of beautiful lyric. Dylan's poet's sensibilites are obvious to anyone who is willing to listen without trying to categorize.

I admit that on the first couple of listens it was hard for me to break through the urge to categorize, "I can hear T-Bone's production here" and "this sounds a little like Tom Waits." But at the end, what use is that, other than to help me sort and put things in boxes. The odd thing is, Jakob Dylan doesn't fit in a neat box. That's what is confounding and beautiful at the same time.

When I was willing to let Dylan be Dylan, to listen to what he had to say, I found myself more moved than I have been by music in a number of years. "Our spirit's been broken, been splintered to bits," "Faith is believing what you see ain't so", "what good is an angel who won't catch up" and "god is still marching, still raising his sword." He's absolutely one of the finest poets writing songs right now.

Dylan's got something to say. But be careful, if you let him in, you may never see things in the same way. It's much easier to listen superficially, dismiss, and then put in another album that's easier to listen to and less contemplative. But if you do listen, it'll enrich you.
Posted by Chris Kennedy - anonymous 6 years ago

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I don't know how he does it, really. You'd think all the crap he gets for being his father's son would drive him to his grave. Or at least take the song from his heart.

His last name is Dylan. Let's all get over it.

Solid album. Love the poetry, double bass, lap steel, and shuffling snare drum.
Posted by Zach - anonymous 6 years ago

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