Bob Dylan – Shadows in the Night (Columbia Record; 2015)
There simply isn’t anybody like Bob Dylan. The idiosyncratic singer-songwriter’s 36th studio album represents another odd detour, eschewing his greatest skill, his writing, in favour of his most polarizing trait; his signature, nasally wheeze. While that wheeze may now resemble a weary croak, Shadows in the Night is nowhere near as tangled or confused as Dylan’s last left turn, 2009’s Christmas in the Heart. A collection of traditional pop standards, Dylan is stripped of the over-zealous trimmings that have sometimes jeopardized his more recent works; sparse, intimately minimal arrangements provide a hauntingly moody backbone to the singer’s vulnerable vocals. Brittle and raw, Dylan’s voice feels surprisingly relaxed and at home, transforming traditional mid-tempo standards into drifting, melancholic ballads of downtrodden vulnerability. Despite encompassing no original material, Shadows in the Night never feels like a meager tribute album; Dylan turns these classics into an atmospheric noir tableau, infusing each song with experience and effectively making them his own.
Trial Track: “The Night We Called It A Day”