THE NEW BASEMENT TAPES — Lost on the River

Album: Lost on the River

Artist: The new Basement Tapes

Label: Capitol

Release Date: November 11, 2014

New Basement Tapes 11-10


It may seem like a surprising combination at first — the pairing of newly found Dylan lyrics, originally written while recording the much revered Basement Tapes, with a group of performers representing both the old guard and the new. Indeed, the prospect of putting new music to such esteemed prose might seem daunting to say the least, killing the initiative before it’s even underway. So credit this would be supergroup (Elvis Costello, Jim James, Marcus Mumford, Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith and Rhiannon Giddens of Carolina Chocolate Drops) for their willingness to put themselves under such scrutiny. Offer them kudos as well for creating a set of songs (15 on the regular album, 20 on the deluxe) that not only measures up to The Master’s standards but stands on its own merits as well.

Thankfully then, there’s not a clunker in the bunch and nary a misstep at all. Producer T Bone Burnett guides the proceedings with special sensitivity, taking an overall approach that’s well in keeping with the arcane trappings Dylan originally intended. As a result, it’s easy to imagine these songs as they might have been hatched in the basement of Bog Pink, whether it’s the slow and somber ”Down on the Bottom,” the soulful, folk-infused twang of “Spanish Mary” or the banjo-borne bluegrass of “Duncan and Jimmy.” With each of the participants fulfilling their roles well — that is, to add melodies to the lyrics and then sing lead on the final composition — Lost on the River takes on a life of its own, all immersed in the part and parchment of authentic Americana.

Naturally, it’s hard to separate the music from the mystique, but rather than appear as if they’re in awe, Costello, James, Mumford, Goldsmith and Giddens put their disparate origins aside and pull together as a team. They clearly own these songs, and ply them accordingly. Both credence and comradery play crucial roles here, elevating this effort to that of an essential acquisition.

DOWNLOAD: “Duncan and Jimmy,” “Down on the Bottom,” “Spanish Mary”

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