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Bob Dylan is not a blues musician, of course, and this album is not, as its title might imply, a disc on which he performs a set of traditional blues songs. It is, rather, a compilation of previously released Dylan originals spanning more than 35 years that illustrates the influence of the blues on his music. (The album was released exclusively through bookseller Barnes & Noble.) It would be possible to assemble such a collection relying entirely on songs from Dylan’s catalog that have the word “blues” in their titles — “Bob Dylan’s Blues,” “North Country Blues,” “Black Crow Blues,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Outlaw Blues,” “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” “Tombstone Blues,” “Call Letter Blues,” “Lonesome Day Blues,” and all those “talking blues” songs, such as “Talking World War III Blues.” But none of those songs are found here. Instead, there are songs that are blues in construction, even if they don’t sound much like blues, such as the opener, “She Belongs to Me” from 1965’s Bringing It All Back Home, and songs that make reference to or borrow lines from the blues, such as “High Water” from 2001’s Love and Theft and “Blind Willie McTell,” a song intended for 1983’s Infidels that finally earned legitimate release on The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3 (Rare and Unreleased) 1961-1991. Practically any Dylan fan could compile an equally valid album with entirely different tracks, but that isn’t to say this one doesn’t hang together well. In fact, it includes several songs that would be on most fans’ lists of Dylan’s best songs of their eras; the ’80s, for example, didn’t get much better for Dylan than “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar,” “Blind Willie McTell,” and “Everything’s Broken.” As long as the album is taken as a Bob Dylan blues collection rather than the Bob Dylan blues collection, it’s fine, and the modest price and limited distribution encourage that assessment. Dylan fans can consider it just someone’s mixtape and enjoy it on that basis before making their own.

Tracks:

01. She Belongs to Me
02. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
03. It takes a Lot to Laugh; It Takes a Train to Cry
04. Down in the Flood
05. Meet Me in the Morning
06. Gotta Serve Somebody
07. The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Alter
08. Seeing the Real You at Last
09. Everything is Broken
10. Dirt Road Blues
11. High Water (for Charley Patton)
12. Blind Willie McTell

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