Pickin' on Dylan: A Tribute

Pickin' On

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Pickin' on Dylan: A Tribute Review

by Bruce Eder

Bob Dylan's music has always had a certain allure to bluegrass players -- even in the mid-'60s, when he was still playing mandolin with the Hillmen, a pre-Byrds Chris Hillman had more than a passing acquaintance with the man's songs. So on its face, this CD should be one of the more intrinsically interesting of the Pickin' On records. And the playing is fine, breezy fun, to be sure, and some of the song choices ("All Along the Watchtower," "I Shall Be Released," "Like a Rolling Stone") for these bluegrass adaptations of Bob Dylan's catalog yield moments of inspired invention and playing. But too much of the disc is just generic bluegrass picking, without any serious reinventions or adaptations beyond what one would expect, meaning there are no surprises on most of it. That's the main problem, but at the other extreme, a few of the tunes, such as "The Times They Are A-Changin'," evidently offered so little to those involved (which includes Richard Greene), that the participants jetison the underlying song almost entirely. In between those extremes, where about a third of the album lives up to expectations, there are elements of the music brought out that will probably enlighten and delight Dylan's more casual fans, especially those who have (understandably) focused on the words all of these years. And on that count, there is a lot worth hearing inside Dylan's music that Greene and album prime-mover David West, along with their collaborators, do bring to the surface. But serious bluegrass fans may well be equally disappointed in the results.

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