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Old Crow Medicine Show

50 Years of Blonde on Blonde – 2017 (Columbia)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Old Crow Medicine Show

Whenever an artist attempts to cover a classic work in whole, it can't help but seem like a somewhat audacious effort from the outset. After all, tackling an album that's stood the test of time, one that's already an integral part of the musical lexicon in its original form, is a formidable task. At best, the original artist's imprint is difficult to supersede, but at worst it can become a regrettable error that yields disastrous results.

Consequently, credit Old Crow Medicine Show for tackling "Blonde On Blonde," one of the most iconic albums of all time - and doing so live in concert no less. Given that this marks the 50th anniversary of the greatest achievement of Dylan's early career - and the fact that Old Crow Medicine Show have been touted as faithful purveyors of true Americana tradition - the combination does make sense in theory.

However, it's another thing to be able to pull it off, so accordingly, kudos are due for the band's superb handling of the material from beginning to end. Granted, there's no radical re-workings here - at least as compared to the way Dylan himself tends to treat the material in live performance.

Rather, the band simply emulates the original arrangements, enhancing the melodic tunefulness in songs such as "Visions of Johanna," "I Want You" and "Just Like a Woman," and upping the energy level on "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again" and "Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine" to the extent that they rock like never before. Likewise, Ketch Secor's lead vocals captures the ragged endurance of Dylan's trademark scratch and sprawl, not so much as imitating him but rather, bringing all its edgy impertinence to the fore.

No one can ever stand in for the Bobster, of course, but it's also fair to say that no one could do as superb a job of revisiting a masterpiece such as "Blond on Blonde" with the ferocity and determination accorded it by Old Crow Medicine Show. Consider this a masterpiece reborn. Kudos, Crows!