Bob Dylan has never called “Shadows in the Night” a Frank Sinatra tribute album. The idea seems nuts: One of the last century’s greatest songwriters challenging perhaps its greatest voice, on Sinatra’s turf. No wonder it was the butt of jokes before anyone heard a note.
The fact remains that each of the 10 standards here, written between 1923 and 1963, was recorded by Sinatra. Some, like “Some Enchanted Evening” or “That Lucky Old Sun,” are fairly well known, others more obscure. Dylan closed his last few concerts with one of them, “Stay With Me.”
The precise, and even more intimidating, comparison is Sinatra’s superb 1955 concept disc, “In the Wee Small Hours.” For these are all songs that come to mind when the night gets long, when missed opportunities, regrets and lost loves come to mind. They’re the songs you’d expect the 73-year-old man sitting at the end of the bar to request. Here they are performed in muted fashion, not with an orchestra, but with Dylan’s band, supplemented by a mournful pedal steel guitar and the occasional subtle horn.
The hushed arrangements put even more emphasis on a voice that, let’s face it, was never considered classic even before being ravaged by age. The remarkable thing is that he pulls it off, with crooning you’ve heard from Dylan before. Unlike his holiday album from a few years back, where his croak played like unintentional comedy at times, he works hard to do justice to the songs and setting. Don’t toss your Sinatra discs aside. By the time Dylan reaches for the last line in album closer, “That Lucky Old Sun,” you’re rooting for him to nail it. He does.
The disc is consistent with Dylan’s later-period emphasis on classic American songcraft and material that evokes mortality. It is very specific in its appeal. Yet when it’s time to turn down the lights and pick up a tumbler, you could do far worse.
By David Bauder, Associated Press
Ahh, Ne-Yo. So much talent — the voice, the songwriting. And yet, somehow, such a boring album.
It’s a little crazy-making, truth be told. All the ingredients are here: some hot beats; smooth, rich vocals; and the idea of an album as a whole concept rather than a collection of songs. So why isn’t it more interesting or compelling?
Maybe because this album, his sixth, feels so one-dimensional. A song about a woman. Another song about a woman, this one using him for whatever celebrity swag she can get. Oh hey, a song about sex with a woman, or preferably two (which interestingly, has a beautiful melody).
Aaaaannnd, another song about a woman, who decided to move on to someone else and Ne-Yo wishes her well.
Ne-Yo says the songs came from stories, from his life and those of his fans, but they’re all saying the same thing.
With his extensive vocal and musical skills, it would likely be fascinating to hear the outcome if Ne-Yo decided to broaden his musical conversation.
By Deepti Hajela, Associated Press
Fans of the Coen brothers’ amused, affectionate portrait of the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene — and of banjo-playing, guitar-plucking Americana in general — will relish this recording of a 2013 New York concert celebrating the music of the movie “Inside Llewyn Davis.”
Produced by the Coens and their musical collaborator T Bone Burnett, the show brought together ’60s folk veterans with younger musicians who have reworked the rich seams of 20th-century American folk, bluegrass, country and blues.
Gillian Welch, the Avett Brothers, Conor Oberst, the Punch Brothers and Lake Street Dive all perform, along with stars of the film, including Oscar Isaac and Carey Mulligan, and rockers Elvis Costello and Jack White.
The result is a highly enjoyable mixed bag. A few of the 34 tracks on this two-disc set evoke the strait-laced brand of folk the Coens’ sent up (Joan Baez delivers the least raunchy “House of the Rising Sun” imaginable), but overall this is a feast of relaxed artistry and low-key emotion. It’s a set of songs, both standards and originals, exuding loneliness, longing and love.
There is some cherishable singing: Welch’s laconic drawl on “Will the Circle be Unbroken?”; the Avett Brothers’ plaintive strains; the sweet, Simon & Garfunkel-esque vocal harmonies of duo the Milk Carton Kids; and the powerhouse voice of North Carolina singer Rhiannon Giddens, equally effective on a blues standard and a storming Gaelic song.
Other standouts include Keb’ Mo’s take on Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow is a Long Time” and Decembrists’ singer Colin Meloy’s version of “Blues Run the Game,” a fine song by semi-forgotten ’60s folkie Jackson C. Frank.
By Jill Lawless, Associated Press