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Out of Bounds and Lost on the River

February 15, 2015

By Kathy Edwards McFarland

A brief history of Bob Dylan, T Bone Burnett and the making of Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes, a collaborative album project from Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons), released on Electromagnetic Recordings/Harvest Records.

About the time America’s youth were turned on and tripping out at open-air music festivals, iconic Singer/Songwriter Bob Dylan, fell silent when he was

US legend Bob Dylan performs on stage during the 21st edition of the Vieilles Charrues music festival on July 22, 2012 in Carhaix-Plouguer, western France.  AFP PHOTO / FRED TANNEAU

US legend Bob Dylan performs on stage during the 21st edition of the Vieilles Charrues music festival on July 22, 2012 in Carhaix-Plouguer, western France. AFP PHOTO / FRED TANNEAU

nearly killed in a motorcycle accident in upstate New York.

While recovering from his injuries, Dylan left the world stage, spending a 6-month period secluded in West Saugerties, New York, with musicians/writers Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson (and later, Levon Helm). Out of this collaboration came the legendary Basement Tapes – dozens of songs written and recorded by Dylan in 1967, backed by members of his touring ensemble who would later achieve their own fame as The Band.

More than a slim collection of now familiar and well-loved songs, Dylan and the group had recorded

Bob Dylan and the Band hanging out in Woodstock at the time of the Basement Tape sessions.

Bob Dylan and the Band hanging out in Woodstock at the time of the Basement Tape sessions.

more than a hundred songs. Curiously, in 1969, an album titled Great White Wonder began appearing in record shops around the country, seeping into “the fabric of our culture and penetrating the souls of music lovers everywhere.” (Supposedly this is the first boot-legged recording .)

Fans demanded new music from Dylan, and the elusive underground recording gained mythic status, since no commercial recordings from the ’67 tapes were available. Finally, in 1975, when Capitol Records released a meager 16-track titled, The Basement Tapes.

Producer T Bone Burnett was asked by Dylan’s publisher if he would like to do something with a box of lyrics that had been found, all hand-written by Dylan in 1967, during the time of the original Basement Tapes recordings.

Note: Born Joseph Henry Burnett in St. Louis, Missouri in 1948, T Bone grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, where he first began making records in 1965. His big break came in 1975, when he was asked by Bob Dylan to play guitar in his band on the now-legendary Rolling Thunder Revue tour.

“Shocked, I asked if Bob was into this, and having been told he was, I asked no more questions, but rather set out to come up with something that would do justice to Bob and be true to the spirit in which the lyrics were originally written,” said Burnett in a post on the Basement Tapes web site.

According to Burnett, Dylan had been working with “an extraordinarily talented group of musicians at the time, any of whom could have led their own

The Lost Tapes "band" - Elvis Costello, Jim James, T. Bone Burnett, Rhiannon Giddens, Marcus Mumford and Taylor Goldsmith.

The Lost Tapes “band” – Elvis Costello, Jim James, T. Bone Burnett, Rhiannon Giddens, Marcus Mumford and Taylor Goldsmith.

bands.” So, he began rounding up songwriter/band leaders equal to the monumental task.

The artists invited to participate in the collaboration were Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), and Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons).

Burnett‘s team sent 16 lyrics to each artist ahead of time, and they all showed up at Capitol Studios in the basement of the Capitol Records building in Hollywood in March of 2014.

“Some had written a melody or two, others had written a dozen, but a couple of days before the sessions started, an additional eight lyrics from that same period showed up. Those lyrics, which no one had time to think about, led to some of the freest recordings,” Burnett said.

Out of this intense and productive creative process also came the documentary Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued, by Sam Jones, and seen on Showtime, chronicling the two-week marathon recording-collaboration. The documentary is an inspiration to any artist of any genre.

Source material – http://www.thenewbasementtapes.com/, Showtime and Capitol Records.

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