This week, Starbucks offers ‘Florida Key’ by the New Basement Tapes, a moniker including a collective of well-known musicians who have recorded songs based on Bob Dylan’s recently uncovered lyrics. So who is in this super group? Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons), while the whole thing is produced by T Bone Burnett… How did this come to be? Burnett was contacted by Dylan’s publisher, who asked him if he had any interest in doing something with Dylan’s recently discovered lyrics,… what a question! Burnett jumped on the occasion, formed the band based on their ‘interest as musical archaeologists’, and they finally decided to record the tunes, many of them whereas only twenty of them are included on the album ‘Lost on the River’, which was just released on Harvest.
‘Florida Key’ is one of these tracks, and it seems to me that the project is part too-ambitious, part already-doomed … how can you possibly adapt a lost, abandoned Dylan song? isn’t Dylan totally untouchable? absolutely iconic? Tom Waits once released ‘Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards’, a collection of ‘songs that fell behind the stove while making dinner’, but these were his songs that he recorded himself, and I have no idea how you can finish somebody’s else song.
So ‘Florida Key’ is a charming guitar ballad, sung in an ethereal style by Taylor Goldsmith’s high vocals, it’s very folky, delicate and very cute, a bit Mumford with that plucked banjo, certainly very fresh, pastoral or springtime-like if you prefer. It’s not bad, and, if I am not totally familiar with Goldsmith’s band Dawes, I have the feeling this could have been part of one of his records… to sum it up, I can’t hear Dylan at all in the song.
‘These are not B-level Dylan lyrics’, said Burnett to the Washington Post, ‘They’re lyrics he just never got around to finishing.’ May be, but what is this record about at the end? It’s not Dylan, it’s not a revival, it’s not a homage… I can’t really tell, but the original recordings known as ‘The Basement Tapes’ were recorded by Dylan and the Band in a large house in upstate New York known as Big Pink, and were never intended to be released, according to the LA Times, they were however circulating as bootlegs and were ultimately released in official form by Dylan’s label in 1975. ‘Florida Key’ doesn’t figure among those early recordings, so it is technically a new song, but not a new Dylan song. Purists will abstain from listening I guess.
Download the track on iTunes here, using the code: YFFATLW66NYH
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