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Anticipation — if not hype — is officially high for the Nov. 11 release of T Bone Burnett’s latest production, Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes, which features contemporary adaptations of forgotten lyrics Bob Dylan supposedly wrote back in 1967, the same year he recorded about 100 songs in upstate New York with future members of The Band, a session that ultimately came to be known as The Basement Tapes. These new recordings feature the collaborative talents of Burnett, Elvis Costello, Jim James (of My Morning Jacket), Marcus Mumford, Rhiannon Giddens (of the Carolina Chocolate Drops) and Taylor Goldsmith (of Dawes).
The collection is being issued by Burnett’s Capitol Music Group imprint Electromagnetic Recordings through Harvest Records.
Burnett has a long history with Dylan, as the Texas-born musician-producer was part of Dylan’s famed Rolling Thunder Revue back in the mid-1970s. Burnett furthered his rapport with the Dylan family when he produced Jakob Dylan’s Wallflowers on their multiplatinum 1996 album, Bringing Down the Horse. Of course, nowadays Burnett is acknowledged as a top producer who has the Midas touch in audio recordings, film and television — and a trusted consigliere to the Coen brothers — so whenever there’s some serious music business that really needs to get done, Burnett is the man to call.
The new recordings will be released in several different versions and formats — standard, deluxe and limited editions on iTunes, CD and LP — and will then be punctuated by a Showtime documentary on Nov. 21, Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued, directed by Sam Jones (who also helmed the Wilco movie, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart). Jones documents Burnett’s two-week recording sessions and contrasts them with those of the original Basement Tapes from long ago.
A lyric video of the song “Nothing to It” has been just released, and the replication of Dylan’s handwritten lyrics is a testament to the authenticity of Burnett’s project. Of course, the opportunity for younger artists like James and Mumford to work with forgotten Dylan material is also huge. According to Burnett, “What transpired during those two weeks was amazing for all of us. There was a deep well of generosity and support in the studio at all times, which reflected the tremendous trust and generosity shown by Bob in sharing these lyrics with us in the first place.”
Worth noting: Bob Dylan is alive and well and one wonders why he chose not to involve himself more thoroughly in Burnett’s ambitious revival of his old material. The original Basement Tapes included classic compositions like “I Shall Be Released” and “This Wheel’s on Fire,” so there is much to live up to here. Both Dylan and Burnett have immense musical legacies and they go way back professionally. Indeed, that seems to be the one thing lacking on Burnett’s exceptional résumé: He’s produced almost every major artist of his time — except for Bob Dylan. Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes may be as close as he gets.
See the complete track list below.
1. Down on the Bottom
2. Married to My Hack
3. Kansas City
4. Spanish Mary
5. Liberty Street
6. Nothing to It
7. Golden Tom – Silver Judas
8. When I Get My Hands on You
9. Duncan and Jimmy
10. Florida Key
11. Hidee Hidee Ho #11
12. Lost on the River #12
14. Card Shark
15. Quick Like a Flash
16. Hidee Hidee Ho #16
17. Diamond Ring
18. The Whistle Is Blowing
19. Six Months in Kansas City (Liberty Street)
20. Lost on the River #20
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