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What I’m listening to this week: Jakob Dylan

April 14, 2009
Seeing Things – 2008

When I was in high school, I was a huge fan of the Wallflowers album Bringing Down the Horse. I listened to it constantly, but even though it was one of my favorites, I never bought any other Wallflowers albums. First of all, I didn’t have enough money to invest in building up a collection, and second of all, I normally just listened to whatever was on the radio. So it was safe to say I didn’t keep up with Jakob Dylan news after “One Headlight” dropped off the charts. Flash forward more than a decade: I was watching Letterman and Jakob was performing “Something Good This Way Comes”. I was intrigued…it’s safe to say that Seeing Things represents a departure from The Wallflowers in a big way (although “I Wish I Felt Nothing” and “God Don’t Make Lonely Girls” from BDTH definitely touched on the country notes).

I listened to Seeing Things in full for the first time this week, and I was thoroughly impressed. The stripped-down, sparse and mostly acoustic instrumentation is a natural showcase for Jakob’s voice. It’s all gravel and scratch with an inherited old-soul intonation. Songs like “Something Good This Way Comes” and “Everybody Pays As They Go” employ classic chug-a-lug folk rhythms without trying way too hard, while “Evil is Alive and Well” and “I Told You I Couldn’t Stop” feature the depths of Jakob’s songwriting talent and lyrical interpretation. It’s not a perfect folk album; a couple of the weaker songs seem almost like background music compared to the more powerful ones, and the trouble with the acoustic arrangements is that it draws more attention to clunky lines in otherwise fine songs, but you easily forgive those things on the album’s other merits. Like other great acoustic albums, listening to Seeing Things will make you long to see it performed live in a tiny bar; it’s intimate, stirring, and evocative.

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