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The AARP stage of Bob Dylan’s career has developed into a period as consistent, purposeful and excellent as any other phase of his twisting path. Together Through Life, Dylan’s third studio album of this decade, continues his streak of top-quality records with new flourishes—in this case, the Tex-Mex accordion from Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo.

This unique latter-day Dylan sound is an amalgamation of mid-20th-century musical styles, from blues to country to the early explosion of rock ‘n’ roll, both an homage to the music he loved growing up and a timeless reinterpretation of the soundscape for that vanished America. That sound is something that Dylan himself should name—and I’d love to hear what the man who came up with “thin, wild mercury” for Blonde on Blonde would have to say about his records four decades later.

Co-written mostly with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, Together Through Life starts out lightning hot with “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” a down-and-dirty blues tune that sounds just like its best line: “I’m movin’ after midnight / Down boulevards of broken cars.”

The record abruptly slows with the second song, “Life Is Hard,” a victim of sequencing and the weakest song Dylan has recorded in the dozen years of this latest resurgence.

Standout tracks are “If You Ever Go to Houston” and “I Feel a Change Comin’ On,” but overall, songs three through 10 are strung together flawlessly, a mix of spooky blues romps and lonesome country ballads.

Published May 14, 2009 in the Tucson Weekly.

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Eric Swedlund is a writer, photographer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. His music writing has appeared regularly in the Tucson Weekly, Phoenix New Times, East Bay Express, The Rumpus and Souciant Magazine.

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