Among his ten weakest albums, but it includes the brilliant “Brownsville Girl“.
Paso Robles, California
6 August 1986
- Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
- Tom Petty (guitar)
- Mike Campbell (guitar)
- Benmont Tench (keyboards)
- Howie Epstein (bass)
- Stan Lynch (drums)
- The Queens Of Rhythm: Carolyn Dennis, Queen Esther Marrow, Madelyn Quebec, Louise Bethune (backing vocals)
The Best Dylan Covers: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy aka Will Oldham – Brownsville Girl
“Brownsville Girl” is a song from Bob Dylan’s 1986 album, Knocked Out Loaded, recorded in May of that year. It is notable for its length, over 11 minutes, and for being co-written by playwright Sam Shepard. The song is an overdubbed version of a December 1984 outtake from the Empire Burlesque sessions entitled “New Danville Girl”.
While as an album Knocked Out Loaded was poorly received upon release, “Brownsville Girl” is considered one of Dylan’s best pieces by some critics. Music critic Robert Christgau praised “Brownsville Girl” as “one of the greatest and most ridiculous of Dylan’s great ridiculous epics. Doesn’t matter who came up with such lines as ‘She said even the swap meets around here are getting pretty corrupt’ and ‘I didn’t know whether to duck or to run, so I ran’ — they’re classic Dylan.”
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy aka Will Oldham has played the song live, and it is a tremendous achievement. The size of the song, the amount of lyrics, man, it has to be tough to learn. Bob Dylan played it live one time, only one time, I mean, it’s a tough song to do. Not many artists have tried to do their version, Mr. Oldham has and he did a good job.
Bob Dylan’s best songs – Brownsville Girl – #18
Well, in the course of life you find yourself with different people in different rooms. Working with Sam [Sheppard] was not necessarily easier, but it was certainly less meaningless. In every case writing a song is done faster when you got someone like Sam and are not on your own.
~Bob Dylan (Oct, 1997 – press conference)
it is ‘a masterpiece, a song that must rank among the five or six best songs Dylan has ever written.’
When Dylan is working at this level of creativity—a level that puts him head and shoulders above everyone else—there’s a magic evocativeness about everything he writes that gives the words enormous possibilities..
~ Nigel Hinton
@ #18 on my list of Dylan’s 200 best songs. It was originally recorded as “New Danville Girl” @ Cherokee Studio, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California 6 December 1984. Overdubbed May 1986 for the “Knocked Out Loaded” album.
It’s an amazing song with cinematic lyrics co-written with Sam Sheppard.
New Danville Girl (recorded 1984-12-06):
Lyrics to “New Danville Girl” added down towards the end of the post..
Dylan has only performed it once, on August 6, 1986 @ Mid-State Fairground – Paso Robles, California:
Altogether, the delivery is astonishing. Not a false moment, not a foot wrong. Keeping up a curious tension between the very measured, slightly too slow musical accompaniment and the urgency of his voice, he gives a faultless performance, infinitely fluid and expressive, from beginning to end a plausible, intelligent and immensely humane persona and narrator, alert to the turbulent complexities of every moment. It’s a long tour de force not a moment too long, and the Dylan who incandesces through it is the full Bob Dylan of genius and generous intelligence, fully engaged.
~Michael Gray (The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia)
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy aka Will Oldham is coming to Norway in May, playing at least three cities. It would be great to get to see him in concert, but I’m guessing it will be quite difficult to get tickets. Anyway, that’s why I chose him for the video of the day. That and the fact that he has recently played Bob Dylan’s masterpiece Brownsville Girl in concert, one of my all time favourite songs.
Brownsville Girl (Bob Dylan) covered by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy:
“Well, there was this movie I seen one time,
about a man riding ‘cross the desert
and it starred Gregory Peck.”