It’s been about 14 years since the last time I heard anything interesting from Jakob Dylan.
That’s when his band, The Wallflowers, released Bringing Down the Horse. You know that one — it’s the album with One Headlight and 6th Avenue Heartache and it’s the record that pushed Bob Dylan’s second youngest into a spotlight similar to the one his father occupied 30 years earlier.
Unlike his pops, though, he couldn’t continue his chart-topping, Grammy-winning ways. I lost track of Dylan somewhere after the third Wallflowers disc came out in 2000, and took a passing interest two years ago, when he released his first solo disc.
But when I heard that he teamed up with T-Bone Burnett — the legendary musician, now Oscar-winning songwriter, and producer of Bringing Down the Horse — I thought it was time to give Dylan another try. And after listening to Women and Country, I’m glad I did.
On the surface, the album sounds a lot different than Dylan’s old rock band. It’s filled with delicate alt-country, soft Americana and touching harmonies from Neko Case and Kelly Hogan. It’s not quite as spare as Seeing Things, his Rick Rubin-produced, stripped down solo debut, but thanks to the quiet atmospheric hums of reverb, the relaxed vocals and lyrics about self-worth, struggle and, less explicitly, about being a working dad to four kids, this is his warmest record yet.
When I told Dylan that Women and Country was coming from a different songwriter than I remember, he disagreed. “I addressed the music as a big band sound, a rock and roll sound, but we had things like pedal steel and horns early on,” he says. “It’s all the same for me.”
He admits that his writing is more “refined” and he now recognizes his strengths. If anything, it’s his songwriting maturity that may be the biggest difference between this and his Wallflowers days — he sounds more confident playing alone, and it seems as if, at 40, he’s able to embrace the country folk combo he was brought up on.
“I’m drawn to traditionalism,” he says. “The instruments that we’re using on this album will be played thousands of years from now.”
Although Dylan’s music now sounds a little more like his father’s, he’s been fielding questions about his dad for nearly two decades. It’s not something that bothers him, at least not anymore.
“It is what it is,” he says. “There’s a misconception for some reason that I’ve been waiting for it to go away, but I understand it’s impossible to think of me and not think of the other.”
Even if he took up some other profession, like an accountant, he’d still get comparisons, he says. “You don’t think I’d be accused of things if I was the head accountant? In any line of work there would be baggage.”
The elder Dylan is supportive, he points out, and with an album as good as Woman and Country it would be hard not to be.
Bryan Borzykowski is a business and entertainment writer. Follow Metro Music on Twitter @TheMetroMusic