As the November Moon leaves us and we brace ourselves for Winter, there is a Bob Dylan track from his album Love and Theft that I enjoy listening to. The song races out of the gates with a bluesy riff and, eventually, Bob works his way in, crooning, "Summer days, summer nights are gone (repeat); I know a place where there's still something going on." As a fellow Minnesotan, I can relate to the yarn Dylan is spinning here. I hear Dylan's connection to place coming through and my mind wanders to a warm spot away from the cold. There is hope, too, in the musical landscape of this song, as if to imply, "Summer may be over, but life can still be good." Being a Minnesotan, we need the tonic of places like the one Dylan is describing in order to make it through the winter moons.
Throughout Dylan's career (and much to his chagrin/amusement), music critics have attempted to categorize the work of Dylan. Dylan has always resisted this and I think it shows in the albums he creates (he just released a Christmas album a little while back) and the songs he crafts. The stories he tells and the characters he develops are relatable, yet never simplified. None of his songs are boxed in and they are open to countless interpretations.
Bearing that in mind, I am attracted to musicians who are able to paint stories. I like being dropped into a scene and appreciate an artist who can articulate their depth of place. Though a bit more difficult to define, I also pay attention to the element of soul. Am I able to hear through enunciations, crescendoes, or key changes that this song means something to the artist? What is their reason for singing it (*thinking of the line from Sam Phillips to Johnny Cash in the movie Walk the Line)? If it is to play victim or be cute, I'm probably not interested. If, on the other hand, it seems real, intelligent, and rhythmic, it may catch my ear. That's all I have to say for now.
Here's a live version of Dylan's Summer Days...