Seen the arrow on the doorpost
Saying, “This land is condemned
All the way from New Orleans
To New Jerusalem”
I traveled through East Texas
Where many martyrs fell
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell
Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell” @ the 17th Annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards ceremony – 12 January 2012 – was performed as a tribute to Martin Scorsese.
Painting By Joachim Patinir, Landscape with The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
I will not pretend to know what Bob Dylan’s exact meaning with this song is but I will offer my thoughts on what I consider the second best song on Tempest.
Scarlet Town from the Bob Dylan album Tempest (with film footage from Masked & Anonymous):
The song feels like a mash of several songs, and that’s actually what it is. He draws inspiration from the old ballad Barbara Allen, but he just uses it as a framework to tell an even more sinister tale. The new parts of the song also feels like a split between two different songs, one set in biblical times and the other addressing the state of USA/The Western world today.
Lyrics Barbara Allen (The three first verses):
In younder town where I was born
There was a fair maid dwell’n
Made every youth cry well away
Her name was Bar-bry Ellen
Was in th merry month of May
When greenbuds they were swell’n
Sweet William come from th western state
An’ courted Bar-bry Ellen
Was all in the month o’ June
When everything was blooming
Sweet William on his death bed lay
For th love of Bar-bry Ellen
Bob Dylan has a long lasting relationship with Barbara Allen (the song) and I’ve included some versions here just as a reference.
The first two verses from the Gaslight tapes (it’s eight minutes and has a lot of verses):
In Charlotte town, not far from here,
There was a fair maid dwellin.’
Had a name was known both far and near,
An’ her name was Barb’ry Allen.
‘Twas in the merry month of May,
Green buds they were swellin’,
Poor William on his death-bed lay,
For the love of Barb’ry Allen.
The first two verses in the -88 version:
In Scarlet Town where I was born
there was a fair maid dwelling,
and her name was known both far and near,
and they called her Barbara Allen.
T’was in the merry month of may
the green buds they were swelling,
sweet William on his death bed lay
for the love of Barbara Allen.
Two other artist that has used this song as a basis for an entirely new song are Gillian Welch and David Rawlings:
Not at all like the original Barbara Allen and the only two things it has in common with Bob Dylan’s song are, the title and it’s origin. The melody is different and the “story”/text is completely different (even if both have a distictly sombre tone). Gillian Welch/David Rawlings have more folksy/appalachian feel, while Dylan sings in a more talking blues style.
Bob Dylan says the stigma of slavery ruined America and he doubts the country can get rid of the shame because it was “founded on the backs of slaves.”
Bob Dylan told in a recent interview with Rolling Stone Magazine that in America “people are at each other’s throats just because they are of a different color, it will hold any nation back.” He went on to say that black people know that some white people “didn’t want to give up slavery.”
Dylan continued with, “If slavery had been given up in a more peaceful way, America would be far ahead today.”
When asked on his opinion if President Barack Obama was helping to shift a change, Dylan said: “I don’t have any opinion on that. You have to change your heart if you want to change.”
My third choice of songs from Bob Dylan’s new album is the “angry speech”, Pay in Blood. I call it an angry speech because it is clearly a man with lot on his mind who vents his thoughts in this song, or maybe it is three men? It is not a story-song (as such), this is someone’s view of their world at a particular moment. This man is, Bob Dylan, on one level. It’s about his life, but it is also so much more. Again I think it paints a picture of Americas past and present.
They sat together in the park
As the evening sky grew dark
She looked at him and he felt a spark tingle to his bones
’Twas then he felt alone and wished that he’d gone straight
And watched out for a simple twist of fate
No hat & plenty of smiles…
KunstRasen Gronau Bonn, Germany 4 July 2012
Bob Dylan (vocal, guitar, grand piano & keyboard)
Stu Kimball (guitar)
Charlie Sexton (guitar)
Donnie Herron (violin, mandolin, steel guitar)
Tony Garnier (bass)
George Receli (drums & percussion)
They walked along by the old canal
A little confused, I remember well
And stopped into a strange hotel with a neon burnin’ bright
He felt the heat of the night hit him like a freight train
Moving with a simple twist of fate
A saxophone someplace far off played
As she was walkin’ by the arcade
As the light bust through a beat-up shade where he was wakin’ up,
She dropped a coin into the cup of a blind man at the gate
And forgot about a simple twist of fate
He woke up, the room was bare
He didn’t see her anywhere
He told himself he didn’t care, pushed the window open wide
Felt an emptiness inside to which he just could not relate
Brought on by a simple twist of fate
He hears the ticking of the clocks
And walks along with a parrot that talks
Hunts her down by the waterfront docks where the sailors all come in
Maybe she’ll pick him out again, how long must he wait
Once more for a simple twist of fate
People tell me it’s a sin
To know and feel too much within
I still believe she was my twin, but I lost the ring
She was born in spring, but I was born too late
Blame it on a simple twist of fate
April 19: Levon Helm died four years ago, Rest In Peace
Mark Lavon “Levon” Helm , was an American rock multi-instrumentalist and actor who achieved fame as the drummer and frequent lead and backing vocalist for The Band.
Helm was known for his deeply soulful, country-accented voice, and creative drumming style highlighted on many of The Band’s recordings, such as “The Weight”, “Up on Cripple Creek”, “Ophelia” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”.
“The Mountain.” (written by Steve Earle) From Levon Helm’s album “Dirt Farmer.” Photographs by Lewis Hine. Levon’s distinct vocal and forceful performance really shines in this wonderful interpretation (audio only):