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Modern Times.

MODERN TIMES Bob Dylan (Columbia Records, 2006)

Bob Dylan is old enough to be selecting his Medicare prescription drug plan, but he's nowhere near retirement. In fact for the past nine years he's been on an artistic roll that's produced his three best albums since the 1970s.

On the newest, Modern Times, Dylan produces himself for the first time with the band that's backed him over several years of endless touring. In Dylan's vocals you can hear the resonant rattle that's entered his sixty-something voice, and the band delivers credible versions of rockabilly, Chicago blues, 19th-century waltzes, and the other elements of the vast roots of Dylan's musical palette.

And that's the great revelation of the reborn Bob Dylan: He is today exactly what he was 46 years ago--an American folk musician. In between he was a psychedelic prophet, a born-again Christian, and an Orthodox Jew. He's been published in poetry anthologies and nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature. But he's never been at home without a guitar around his neck.

Dylan recently settled the religion question, saying, "I believe in Hank Williams singing 'I Saw the Light.'" And that sums it up. Dylan's faith is in the swing and moan of America's country and blues traditions, and a vision of life that is equal parts carnality and transcendence. On Modern Times, Dylan serves that vision up whole. The line, "Someday I'm gonna stand beside my King," rests alongside a double entendre about some sugar in the bowl. In one song we meet the angel by the empty tomb, and in another a dirty old man lusts after the twenty-something R&B singer Alicia Keys.

The cutting-edge website, Pitchfork Media, ( recently called Dylan "the last American hero." He's certainly turning into one of them.
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Author:Collum, Danny Duncan
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Article Type:Sound recording review
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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