Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

The Chieftains: SAN PATRICIO – meeting of Irish and Mexican music / encuentro entre música irlandesa y mexicana

I draw your attention to the remarkable new album by the veteran Irish folk group the Chieftains, SAN PATRICIO (Blackrock Records, 2010, HRM-31321-02; This group, who earlier entered into dialogue with Galician music in their 1996 album SANTIAGO, now turn their attention to Mexico and revive a forgotten chapter of history linking Ireland and Mexico. During  the war between the US and Mexico of 1846-1848, a group of Irish soldiers switched sides, going over to become part of the Mexican struggle against the invader, as the Batallón de San Patricio (St Patrick’s Battalion). The US won the war and the Irish ‘deserters’ were captured, cruelly punished and in many cases executed. Their memory is now revived through the Chieftains’ music-making, reaching out across cultural barriers. The album – co-credited to Ry Cooder, the US guitarist famous for his work with the Cuban musicians of Buena Vista Social Club – features another celebrated US artist, Linda Ronstadt, today a major promoter of mariachi (see article on this blog for 24 September 2008), as well as a host of Mexican musicians including Los Tigres del Norte, Los Camperos de Valles, Lila Downs, the Veracruz harp player La Negra Graciana, and the 92-year old Chavela Vargas. The musical fusion is stunning, and I cannot recommend this album highly enough!


Llamo a vuestra atención el fenomenal álbum, recién salido, del veterano grupo de música folk irlandesa, los Chieftains, bajo el título SAN PATRICIO (Blackrock Records, 2010, HRM-31321-02; Este grupo, que ya dialogó con la música de Galicia en su obra de 1996, SANTIAGO, ahora dirige su mirada hacia México para revitalizar un capítulo olvidado de la Historia que une a Irlanda con México. Durante la guerra de 1846-1848 entre EE UU y México, un grupo de soldados irlandeses decidió cambiar de bando y hacerse parte de la lucha mexicana contra el invasor, bajo el nombre del Batallón de San Patricio. Ganó la guerra el lado estadounidense, y los ‘desertores’ irlandeses fueron capturados y cruelmente castigados, siendo mucho de ellos ejecutados. Su memoria se rescata ahora a través de la música de los Chieftains, más allá de las barreras culturales. El álbum – firmado conjuntamente con Ry Cooder, el guitarrista norteamericano conocido por su colaboración con los músicos cubanos de Buena Vista Social Club – tiene la participación de otra célebre artista de EE UU, Linda Ronstadt (hoy día embajadora de la música mariachi – véase entrada en este bitácora del 24-IX-2008), así como de toda una pléyada de músicos mexicanos, entre ellos Los Tigres del Norte, Los Camperos de Valles, Lila Downs, la arpista veracruzana La Negra Graciana, y (a sus 92 años) Chavela Vargas. La fusión de músicas es abrumadora, y difícilmente sabría yo brindarle a este álbum todas las alabanzas que merece.


An official course on Bob Dylan, entitled “Bob Dylan, el poeta del rock and roll”, is under way at the University of Seville, Spain. Details may be found in an article by Neftali Caballero in “El Correo de Andalucía”, 21 February 2010, ‘130 alumnos de la Hispalense se matriculan en una asignatura sobre Bob Dylan’ (‘130 Seville students register on a course on Bob Dylan’):


and on the university’s website:


(programme: )


The course organiser is Mario Ernesto Ríos, a student at the university’s law faculty, and 130 students have enrolled. It is actually the second such course to be held in Seville, building on the success of an initial event last year. The programme comprises 15 lectures, from 23 February to 29 April 2010, by Spanish Dylan experts, including the novelist Benjamín Prado and the veteran rock journalist Jesús Ordovás. This course follows on from similar events held in the last couple of years in Peru and Bolivia (see entries on this blog for 26 Sept 2007 and 9 July 2009), and further consecrates Dylan’s academic status in the Hispanic world.




Un seminario de carácter oficial dedicado a Bob Dylan, bajo el título “Bob Dylan, el poeta del rock and roll”, está en curso en la Universidad de Sevilla (España). Se puede hallar información detallada al respecto en un artículo de Neftali Caballero en “El Correo de Andalucía”, 21 de febrero de 2010, ‘130 alumnos de la Hispalense se matriculan en una asignatura sobre Bob Dylan’:


y en el sitio web de la Universidad:


(programa: )


Organiza el curso Mario Ernesto Ríos, alumno de la Facultad de Derecho sevillana; se han matriculado 130 universitarios. En realidad se trata del segundo ciclo dylaniano que se celebra en esa universidad, ya que un primer ciclo, menos ambicioso, fue montado el año pasado. El programa se compone de 15 conferencias, del 23-II al 29-IV-2010, dictadas por destacados dylanianos hispanos, entre ellos el novelista Benjamín Prado y el veterano periodista rock Jesús Ordovás. Este curso sigue en la línea de eventos semejantes que tuvieron lugar en el último par de años en Perú y Bolivia (véase en esta bitácora: entradas para 26-IX-2007 y 9-VII-2009), y marca un paso más en la consagración del estatuto académico de Dylan en el mundo hispanohablante.




I have been asked by several people for my take on Bob Dylan’s new album CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART (cf. post on this blog, 26 Aug 09), and I have to admit that complying is no easy task. However, here, for what they are worth, are my decidedly non-expert seasonal comments! (also posted on the Bob Dylan Critical Corner site at:


I have been assisted in reaching a few conclusions by a number of sources: the “Dylan Christmas interview” which has been widely syndicated on the Web; the multi-author symposium on the album, with contributions from Toby Thompson, Sean Wilentz, Todd Harvey, and others, published in THE BRIDGE, No 35, Winter 2009, pp. 45-81; Michael Gray’s review on his blog; and some comparative listening to similar Yuletide material by Dean Martin, Nat King Cole and Elvis Presley. So from one or other of these sources I know that 13 of the album’s 15 tracks were recorded by Bing Crosby (thanks, Sean); that Elvis did ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’, Dean did ‘Winter Wonderland’ and Nat did ‘The Christmas Song’; that ‘Must be Santa’ is a polka; and that Dylan doesn’t know whether Christmas Island exists (it does; it’s an Australian dependency in the Indian Ocean).


The question I have been repeatedly asked is: what is the point of this album?, and to that we can add: what is it doing in the canon? My first reaction is to take it as some kind of freak or sport, only very tenuously connected to anything he’s done before, and in all probability to anything he’ll do in the future. Attempts to link it to earlier Dylan albums don’t seem to get too far. It connects back to, if I mistake not, a mere two original songs in the canon that mention Christmas, ‘Three Angels’ from NEW MORNING and ‘Floater (Too Much To Ask)’ from “LOVE AND THEFT”.  It contains not a single Dylan composition and thus aligns itself with GOOD AS I BEEN TO YOU and WORLD GONE WRONG, but those are acoustic albums containing mostly folk and blues material, not retro pop songs. Insofar as Christmas is a Christian theme, it connects to the SLOW TRAIN COMING – SAVED – SHOT OF LOVE trilogy, but it has no evangelical pretensions and the music isn’t gospel. The retro arrangements hark back to elements on the last three albums of originals, but this is an album of covers. The revenues will go to charity and the album might be considered a (successfully achieved) commissioned job, which could link it to PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID, but, despite Pretty Boy Floyd and his gifting of Christmas fare for the families on relief, outlawdom and Santa don’t have that much in common.


An album replete with 15 cover versions will certainly give Derek Barker some homework for any future new edition of his encyclopaedic THE SONGS HE DIDN’T WRITE: BOB DYLAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (even more so as Dylan fails to give any credits in the packaging); and conversely, won’t have anyone excavating for hidden quotations or crying wolf over alleged plagiarism. There is Eleven of the songs covered are Christmas pop songs; four – ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’, ‘The First Noel’, ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)’ – are carols proper, regularly included in officially sanctioned events like the famous King’s College Cambridge Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols; the last-named offers the novelty of Dylan singing in Latin in the first verse, following his official ventures into Spanish (‘Romance in Durango’ and ‘Spanish Is The Loving Tongue’) and Italian (‘Return to Me’).


I have enjoyed listening to this album, though once the festive season 2009 is over I will probably put it on file till Yuletide 2010. I certainly find it more listenable than either MODERN TIMES or TOGETHER THROUGH LIFE, and I believe other Dylan commentators join me in this. Perhaps we could see this album as the equivalent in the Dylan canon to A CHRISTMAS CAROL in the work of Charles Dickens, a beautifully polished minor gem, sentimental certainly but at the time dedicated to the best of sentiments – to the Christmas spirit of which Dylan sang in ‘Floater’, ‘all the ring-dancing Christmas carols on all of the Christmas eves’ ….

BOB DYLAN CRITICAL CORNER SITE: relaunched with new url

The Bob Dylan Critical Corner site (BDCC),
founded in 1996, has now been relaunched.
The migration was necessitated following the closure
of the site’s previous host, Geocities.

New urls – site:
– articles page:

The new BDCC includes a blog which will
be frequently updated, and as always will
welcome article submissions.

Do visit us!!
Christopher Rollason and
Nicola Menicacci
for BDCC

Hugues Aufray revisits Bob Dylan – ‘New Yorker’, 2009

Recently released in France is NEW YORKER (Mercury, 2009, 532 279 8 –, the third album of Dylan covers by the veteran French singer Hugues Aufray (the previous two are AUFRAY CHANTE DYLAN, a single album from 1965, and AUFRAY TRANS DYLAN from 1995, a double CD featuring re-recordings of the 1965 songs plus new material).


This time too, Aufray has for the most part chosen the re-recording route, but introducing a new element in the form of duets, with well-known singers, French or France-resident (or in one case, a trio). The songs are, as before, in Hugues Aufray’s own French-language adaptations. The album consists of 13 tracks, of which the opener, ‘New Yorker’, is a prose narrative by Aufray himself, the closing track, ‘Cloches sonnez’ (‘Ring Them Bells’), features Aufray solo, while of the rest the trio is ‘Nous serons libres’ (‘I shall be releaesd’), with Pep’s and Wasis Diop, and the remaining 10 are duets. Of the 12 songs proper, 10 have already appeared in French translation on AUFRAY TRANS DYLAN (one of them on AUFRAY CHANTE DYLAN too), the ‘new’ songs being the above-mentioned ‘Cloches sonnez’ and ‘Tout comme une vraie femme’ (‘Just Like a Woman’, with Jane Birkin). Of the remaining 9, ‘Au coeur de mon pays’ (‘Heartland’, with Arno) is only dubiously by Dylan, who is generally believed to have confined himself to contributing the music for Willie Nelson’s words for that song, on which the two duetted on the latter’s 1993 album ACROSS THE BORDERLINE.


The remaining 8 are: ‘La fille du nord’ (‘Girl from the north country’), with Eddy Mitchell (this is the song that features on all three Aufray albums); ‘N’y pense plus, tout est bien’ (‘Don’t think twice, it’s all right’), with Carla Bruni); ‘Mr l’homme orchestre’ (‘Mr Tambourine Man’), with Laurent Voulzy; ‘Knock Knock, ouvre-toi porte du ciel’ (‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s door’; retitled from 1995’s ‘Knock-Knock ouvre-toi porte d’or’), with Bernard Lavilliers; ‘L’homme dota d’un nom chaque animal’ (‘Man gave names to all the animals’), with Alain Souchon; ‘Tout l’monde un jour s’est planté’ (‘Rainy Day Women Nos. 12 and 35’), with Didier Wampas; ‘Dans le souffle du vent’ (‘Blowin’ in the wind’), with Francis Cabrel; and ‘Jeune pour toujours’ (‘Forever young’), with Johnny Hallyday. Some of the songs have snatches of English, notably Birkin’s contribution to ‘Just like a woman’.


An ‘authentic’ feel is given to the album by the participation of American musicians associated with Bob Dylan himself, including Charlie McCoy, Larry Campbell and David Hidalgo.


The packaging includes the full text of Aufray’s French adaptations, plus brief texts by Aufray himself and … Bob Dylan, who reminisces on times passed with Hugues Aufray in Paris (‘Hugues introduced me to all the sights: the Bastille, the Cathedral at Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe … He showed me where Marat had lived and Robespierre … I told him that if he came to New York, I would show him where Alexander Hamilton and Poe lived’).


The general quality of the interpretations is high: Aufray has lavished care on this recording. A question mark hovers over Carla Bruni’s presence: she sings beautifully on ‘Don’t think twice’, but what would the Dylan of 1965 have said about a song of his being performed by the French president’s wife? I only ask ….

BOB DYLAN: my/Nicola Menicacci’s work/ORAL TRADITION, analysed in Iowa and Finland

I am pleased to note the choice of the issue of ORAL TRADITION (22, 1, March 2007 – – see entry on this blog, 27 June 2007) containing the proceedings of the symposium ‘Bob Dylan’s Performance Artistry’ held in 2005 at the University of Caen (France) (see this blog, 30 September 2005) as the main subject-matter for the 6 October 2009 session of ‘After Postmodernism’, an seminar for anthropology majors at Grinnell College, Iowa, USA, taught by Prof. Katya Gibel Mevorach:


For 6 October, students are asked to prepare, read and take part in a roundtable discussion, ‘focusing on the broad themes in each article related to ethnographic representations’, of the following articles from the Dylan issue of ORAL TRADITION:

(i)                Désveaux, Emmanuel. “Amerindian Roots of Bob Dylan’s Poetry.”

(ii)               Rollason, Christopher.  “Sólo Soy Un Guitarrista”:  Bob Dylan in the Spanish-Speaking World––Influences, Parallels, Reception, and Translation.”-; see this blog, 30 September 2005

(iii)             Thomas, Richard F. “The Streets of Rome: The Classical Dylan”


I am of course enormously flattered and grateful to find my own work being the subject of such close and detailed analysis in a college classroom.




I add that I have, furthermore, just discovered that my article on Dylan in the Spanish-Speaking World was *also* discussed and quoted at length, in the version appearing on the Bob Dylan Critical Corner site, in a text which appeared on 23 August 2007 in NY TID, a long-established and prestigious Swedish-language weekly based in Helsingfors, Finland (author: Sven-Erik Klinkmann; In the same piece, Klinkmann also discusses the book by Nicola Menicacci, ‘Bob Dylan, L’Ultimo Cavaliere’ (see this blog, 27 September 2005), reviewed by myself, again, on Bob Dylan Critical Corner. Not knowing Swedish, I have had to rely on Google’s rough machine translation into English to get a general idea of this article. However, it is clear that the author sees both Nicola’s analysis of esoteric and elements in Dylan’s work and my suggestion of a link between Federico García Lorca and Dylan’s ‘Standing in the Doorway’ as examples of Dylanological ‘overinterpretation’, of enthusiastic Dylan scholars ‘reading too much’ into the song texts. Be that as it may, it remains gratifying to find my work and Nicola’s examined at such length in a well-respected newspaper, and I am very grateful to Sven-Erik Klinkmann for his attention!



The latest Bob Dylan news is that 13 October 2009 will see the US release of a new album called "Christmas in the Heart". Yes, this really will be a Bob Dylan Christmas album, with covers of such Yuletide standards as: "Must Be Santa", "Little Drummer Boy", "Winter Wonderland" and "Here Comes Santa Claus".
Many long-term acolytes will no doubt feel ambivalent about this, though those who cherish his radical past might recall that, on his own admission in the song "My Back Pages", Dylan hasn’t been a protest singer since … 1964. Meanwhile, the new album will presumably take its place as his *fourth Christian album*, following the trilogy from his late 70s / early 80s born-again epoch.
He has earlier mentioned Christmas in his songs "Three Angels" (on "New Morning", 1970) and "Floater (Too Much To Ask)" (on ‘"Love and Theft"’, 2001
Note added 26 Dec 09: I have put a seasonal post here on this blog with some impressions of this album!