Life of an Artist: A New Interpretation of Bob Dylan – Bob Sings the Blues Era (July 1997 to present)

The ‘Bob Sings the Blues’ Era began with the release of the 1997 future Grammy award winner for best album Time Out of Mind and continues to present day. This era has been the longest, in terms of duration, and his most successful, in terms of the quality of the material produced. Some of the credit for Dylan’s revival must go to Canadian born record producer Daniel Lanois.

At the suggestion of U2 front man Bono, Dylan hired Lanois for his 1989 album Oh Mercy. While the collaboration was decent, it had nothing on what the two would concoct for the second collaboration eight years later, the Grammy winning Time Out of Mind.

Critics were impressed

In a glowing review for his “Consumer Guide” column published by The Village Voice, Robert Christgau wrote: “If Time Out of Mind was his death album—it wasn’t, but you know how people talk—this is his immortality album.”[13] Later, when The Village Voice conducted its annual Pazz & Jop Critics Poll, Love and Theft topped the list, the third Dylan album to accomplish this.[14][15] It also topped Rolling Stone‘s list.[16]Q listed Love and Theft as one of the best 50 albums of 2001.[17]Kludge ranked it at number eight on their list of best albums of 2001.

Blues had always been key component of Dylan’s music. Until Lanois sat in the producer seat for Time Out of Mind,had the bluesy aspect of Dylan’s writing ever been fully realized. It would serve as the template for Bob Dylan’s future work. The first of which was the 2001 Love and Theft.

Released September 11, 2001, the release was overshadowed by events elsewhere. Released four years after the Grammy winning Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft would embrace the Blues fully. It is, one feels, the closest to the sound he had in his head. Supporting that theory are the tone of the releases that followed.

Still evident was his passion. The four years between 1997’s Time Out of Mind and 2001’s Love and Theft seemed barely a day had gone by to the listener. In 1997, there was ‘Highlands,’ ‘Cold Irons Bound.’ and ‘Not Dark Yet,’ 2001 ponied up ‘Mississippi,’ ‘Honest With Me,’ and ‘High Water (For Charley Patton,). All songs on par with anything he had ever produced before.

“In a glowing review for his “Consumer Guide” column published by The Village Voice, Robert Christgau wrote: “If Time Out of Mind was his death album—it wasn’t, but you know how people talk—this is his immortality album.”[13] Later, when The Village Voice conducted its annual Pazz & Jop Critics Poll, Love and Theft topped the list, the third Dylan album to accomplish this.[14][15] It also topped Rolling Stone‘s list.[16]Q listed Love and Theft as one of the best 50 albums of 2001.[17]Kludge ranked it at number eight on their list of best albums of 2001.”

Dylan’s work rate, quality wise, in this era has been consistently high. As much as one could criticize Dylan for doing a Christmas album, it does nothing to detract from the quality of the era’s work.