Together Through Life (2009) Should you ever start a band that performs only Bob Dylan's songs about death, you'd have no shortage of material. But the sound of scythe-sharpening… 2009-04-28 Bob Dylan Rock
Music Review

Together Through Life (2009)

Bob Dylan | Looking Through : Bob Dylan
Image credit: David Gahr
Looking Through: Bob Dylan
EW's GRADE
B-

Details Release Date: Apr 28, 2009; Lead Performance: Bob Dylan; Genre: Rock

Should you ever start a band that performs only Bob Dylan's songs about death, you'd have no shortage of 
material. But the sound of scythe-sharpening is particularly loud on this follow-up to 2006's majestic Modern Times. On ''Life Is Hard'' and ''Forgetful Heart,'' Dylan sings from the perspective of someone biding his time before the embrace of the grave. Elsewhere, he tells of murders either threatened or just escaped, as on ''If You Ever Go to Houston'' and ''My Wife's Home Town.''

While Dylan's grim-reaper ruminations are familiar territory, Together Through Life does offer some surprises. Produced, like his last two albums, by Dylan 
alter ego ''Jack Frost,'' it prominently features south-of-the-border-style accordion (courtesy of Los Lobos' David Hidalgo) throughout, which handsomely frames the guitar playing of Tom Petty sideman Mike Campbell. Then there are the lyrics. All but one of these 10 songs were co-written by longtime Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Alas, the pair have come up with some desperately uninspired stuff, such as the ''fun''-and-''sun''-rhyming blues of ''Shake Shake Mama,'' or ''Jolene,'' another unmemorable boogie shuffle (unlikely to be confused with the iconic Dolly Parton tune).

Even so, Life does feature some quality material. On the truly touching ''Forgetful Heart,'' Dylan croaks about the door having closed on his emotions, ''if indeed there ever was a door.'' And the set is nicely bookended by the funky ''Beyond Here Lies Nothin' '' and the rockabilly-inclined ''It's All Good,'' which Dylan performs with gleeful sarcasm. Unlike with his last few albums, however, you shouldn't consider buying this a matter of life and death. B–

Download This: Listen to the song ''Beyond Here Lies Nothin''' on the artist's MySpace

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Originally posted Apr 28, 2009 Published in issue #1046 May 08, 2009 Order article reprints