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Review: Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan

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GUEST,Felipa 28 Apr 05 - 08:02 AM
GUEST 28 Apr 05 - 07:58 PM
Steve Latimer 28 Apr 05 - 11:12 PM
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Subject: Haggard and Dylan
From: GUEST,Felipa
Date: 28 Apr 05 - 08:02 AM

"Dylan's in a Dark Mood, and Haggard Isn't Offering Any Relief"

Published: April 19, 2005

NEWARK, April 19 - It's some kind of career milestone when musicians
start acting older than they are, rather than younger. Both Bob Dylan,63, and Merle Haggard, the 68-year-old country patriarch sharing his tour, reached that point long ago, seizing the chance to be avuncular, cranky and committed to traditions they see disappearing.

Wearing matching suits, Mr. Dylan's band looks like a 1940's country
act; Mr. Haggard's band, the Strangers, sometimes plays like one. But the wrinkles and antique trappings shouldn't fool anyone: these two songwriters are as sharp and rigorous as ever. They performed Tuesday night at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center here, and they start a five-night stand at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan on Monday night.

Mr. Dylan's set had war, mortality, lost love and fierce electric blues on its mind. He started with "Tombstone Blues," snapping out its lyrics in gruff staccato bursts, and continued with some of his most baleful songs, from the apocalyptic nursery rhyme "Under the Red Sky" to "This Wheel's on Fire." Kindly moments were outnumbered, perhaps 10 to 1, by bitter ones.

Mr. Dylan played electric piano, using quick chord jabs to spur the music, or stepped to center stage for pointed, melodic harmonica solos. His voice was in a thick, raspy phase, but when he wanted to sound most menacing, he would ease back into a sardonic croon, as he did when God threatened Abraham in "Highway 61 Revisited."

His latest band, anchored as it has been since the early 1990's by Tony Garnier on bass, could turn "John Brown," his early-60's song about a shattered soldier, into banjo-picking Appalachian rock, and it could sashay through Mr. Dylan's Tin Pan Alley-flavored "Bye and Bye." It had a violinist, Elana Fremerman, who was joined for keening, soaring twin-fiddle passages by Donnie Herron in "Absolutely Sweet Marie." But its core was in the blues, with Denny Freeman playing jagged solos, George Recile on drums making shuffle beats leap ahead, and the whole band, completed by Stu Kimball on guitar, finding new riffs behind old songs like "Masters of War" - almost a minor-key blues in its latest incarnation - or "All Along the Watchtower." With this band, Mr. Dylan's indictments became both pitiless and exhilarating.

Mr. Haggard has slyly backdated his music: from the swinging, twanging Bakersfield style of his 1960's and 70's hits to an invented old-time country that embraces fiddle tunes, western swing, yakety saxophone and pop standards along with drinking songs. His band is almost dainty in its well-oiled swing, as it dips into blues or New Orleans jazz, country waltzes or the Nat Cole hit "Unforgettable."

Mr. Haggard's honey-cured voice has been a model for country singers
from George Strait to Alan Jackson, with nonchalant timing and sudden dips into his baritone register. He also played country fiddle and succinct guitar solos. And behind the relaxed phrasing was a steely tension, especially in songs bemoaning modern life. When he looked back at better times, he allowed himself a surly growl.

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Subject: RE: Review: Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan
Date: 28 Apr 05 - 07:58 PM

Thanks for the great read Guest.

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Subject: RE: Review: Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 28 Apr 05 - 11:12 PM

Bob's next tour is with Willie Nelson and Family. I would love to see that, it's not coming anywhere near me.

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