5 great cover versions of Blind Willie McTell by Bob Dylan

Blind-Willie-McTell cover versions

Seen the arrow on the doorpost
Saying, “This land is condemned
All the way from New Orleans
To Jerusalem”
I traveled through East Texas
Where many martyrs fell
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

Let’s start this party by reminding ourselves what a fantastic song this is. Here are the official released Bob Dylan version from The Bootleg Series Volume 1-3:

“One of Bob Dylan’s absolute masterpieces, “Blind Willie McTell” is the jewel of The Bootleg Series and arguably one of the finest songs ever written. Recorded in 1983 for the album Infidels, it was deemed superfluous to requirements, and all that remains is one take of the song with a full band (yet to be officially released) and this haunting demo, with Dylan playing piano with accompaniment from Mark Knopfler.”
– Thomas Ward (allmusic)

And the outtake, the electric version from the Infidels sessions (audio), my favorite:

Ok, so here are those wonderful cover versions.

The magnificent Mick Taylor did this great version in Germany in 2009 (Rockpalast):

This cover version by Dream Syndicate from a free single given away with Bucketfull of Brains. No dates of the recording are listed. Apologies as it cuts just before the end of the song (audio):

“I started playing it live because I heard the Band doing it. Most likely it was a demo, probably showing the musicians how it should go. It was never developed fully, I never got around to completing it. There wouldn’t have been any other reason for leaving it off the record. It’s like taking a painting by Monet or Picasso – goin’ to his house and lookin’ at a half-finished painting and grabbing it and selling it to people who are ‘Picasso fans.'”
– Bob Dylan

Levon Helm Band “Blind Willie” Live at Pompano Beach Amphitheater, Pompano Beach, FL 11-4-2010:

I want to include a very fine interpretation in Swedish by Mikael Wiehe (Spotify):

Finally a jazz/blues instrumental, wonderfully done by Jef Lee Johnson (Audio):

– Hallgeir

Other cover versions of Bob Dylan’s songs

5 thoughts on “5 great cover versions of Blind Willie McTell by Bob Dylan”

  1. Thanks for these. I can’t remember where I read this but I believe the “demo” version is actually the last take of the song that was done at the sessions. Bob took one more stab, stripping it down to get at the heart of the song. For me, it’s the definitive one. It would be great to get to hear more versions and the 20+ versions of “Foot of Pride” 🙂

  2. To this list of excellent BWM covers I’d add one by Barrence Whitfield with Tom Russell (Hillbilly Voodoo 1993).

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