Imagine if T Bone Burnett brought together Eddie Lang, and Louis Armstrong in the backroom of some Los Angeles cafe at 3 a.m. in about 1965 and started to riff gently on a few pop songs — impossible, given the the mixing of eras and location — if that happened you might get a recording that evoked the essense of Bob Dylan’s Love and Theft.
I bought L&T when it first came out. Listened to it. Liked it. Put it away. Last week, I put it in my car audio device, and it hasn’t stopped spinning since.
It’s one damn fine album. Better than Dylan’s Grammy-winning Time Out of Mind. Musically it is more interesting; melodically it is more inventive. It fits snuggly on any CD shelf that contains Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited and Blood on the Tracks.
Dylan dips into the entire menu of American musical styles, from vaudvillian vampiness to rockabilly rebelliousness — there is a tasty slice of Americana in every bite. A song like “Honest with Me” rocks with an R&B groove; country suffuses the tone of “Cry A While” and track 8, “Moonlight,” would make even the most ardant Cole Porter fan rapturous. The album is jazzy more in its wide-ranging musical vocabulary than it is in substance, and blues more in its weary wisdom than it is in its done-me-wrong angst.
The one knock non-Dylan fans make about Bob Dylan is that he can’t sing. Well, I guess that’s all in how you define “sing“. Dylan’s voice has always had it’s own lyrical power, which is all we can really ask of any musician who is expressing his own vision. On L&T, with his vocal range diminished and his scaly vocal chords even more frayed, Dylan has continued to mould his songwriting style to his own limitations — as always, those seeming shortcomings become strengths. Dylan remains a master had giving his songs more soul, while turning out numbers snappy enough that more polished musicans can probably have big hits with them.
So, yeah, you can say I like Lamp;T, and I think you should buy it.