Expecting a new Bob Dylan release this Christmas has not been a disappointment

By Stephen Pate – Bob Dylan’s Christmas gift to fans this year only has one of his songs.

Bob Dylan was executive producer of the excellent country CD The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. Hank Williams wrote the lyrics decades ago but didn’t finish the songs. Dylan enlisted a who’s who of country, indie and rock music to make those lyrics come alive.

Update – three years after release The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams is one of my favorite country CDs.

Hank Williams wrote great lyrics, if somewhat down mood, and the new tunes and arrangements are interesting, with only one exception, The Sermon on the Mount by Merle Haggard.

Dylan performs The Love That Faded and his son Jacob does a memorable Oh, Mama, Come Home.

Other tracks include:

You’ve Been Lonesome, Too – Alan Jackson
How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart? – Norah Jones
You Know That I Know Jack White
I’m So Happy I Found You – Lucinda Williams
I Hope You Shed a Million Tears Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell
You’re Through Fooling Me Patty Loveless
You’ll Never Again Be Mine Levon Helm
Blue Is My Heart Holly Williams

Great singers bring the Hank Williams songs to life.

Every Christmas for ages I have looked forward to some Bob Dylan gift in my stocking. I was bemoaning the lack of new or old releases from Dylan when it dawned on me. The most significant Bob Dylan release of 2011 was not Bob Dylan originals.

It is Dylan’s production of The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams.

Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams

Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams

This collection only has Dylan singing on one song.

The CD has a cross- section of the best in country singers who add their melodies, singing and arrangements to 12 songs that Hank Williams penned but didn’t finish.

I reviewed the CD in October and was generally positive.

“From the Alan Jackson’s honky-tonk You’ve Been Lonesome Too to Merle Haggard’s reverential The Sermon on the Mount, The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams is a winner. These are Hank Williams Sr. songs we never heard before and it’s at treat. There is more life, fun and good music here than in most country CDs in the past while.”

What I didn’t expect was that the CD would stay in rotation on my computer and iPhone. The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams gets better with each listen.

So after all, Dylan’s Christmas gift for 2011 is a release of someone else’s old material. Dylan is reverential towards the classics in American music and no one defined post-war country music like Hank Williams.

Since I already own the CD, there’s no use in making hints about a stocking stuffer. However, I discovered in researching this story that a vinyl version was released, Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams Vinyl

We’ll see if I get it for Christmas. Otherwise, it will be an early 2012 purchase.

Official Bootlegs

With the years between new albums getting longer and longer, Dylan fans have been collecting the official releases of out-takes and never released live recordings.

They usually were released in the fall and made great Christmas gifts, as in suggestions on your wish list.

When Bob Dylan released two bootlegs last year, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 and The Original Mono Recordings it emptied my bank account or I should say that of my significant other who got them as wish list items for Christmas. I had to spring for the vinyl big box versions.

Bob Dylan may not have been the first artist to have his music bootlegged but Dylan did create an underground industry of bootleg albums beginning with the 1969 release of Great White Wonder which Columbia later re-packaged as The Basement Tapes.

The bootleg recording of Bob Dylan and The Band practicing and creating a new weird music in the Big Pink house in Saugerties New York is a classic. A real Dylan collector has both.

The Columbia Records release of The Basement Tapes was an acknowledgement that if you can’t beat the bootleggers, you can join them in grand style.

We now have 9 official Bob Dylan bootlegs from The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 : Rare And Unreleased, 1961-1991 to The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964.

All of the official bootlegs are highly collectible and great to own. Dylan has a team at Sony/Columbia combing the vaults for material to re-release. They come with well documented booklets that add to our knowledge of Bob Dylan’s work.

The vinyl versions are worth buying since baby boomers like large print and big photographs. It is also worth buying the vinyl versions before they go out of print and end up on eBay.com at inflated collector prices.
Merry Christmas to you and Bob.

For more on Bob Dylan bootlegs, check out Rolling Stone’s The 10 Best Bob Dylan Bootlegs.

Where to buy