A release as surprising and enigmatic as the prior “I Contain Multitudes” and “Murder Most Foul”, “False Prophet” foreshadows Dylan’s “Rough and Rowdy Ways”. Although much is different across his three tracks of 2020, Dylan is reflective across the trio. Here though, he ponders with much gusto and “…last of the best” seems self-congratulatory in a refreshing way unheard of since a 2004 interview in which he marvels at “magically written” songs like “It’s Alright Ma…”. Perhaps he is now comfortable with not reaching the eminence of those early releases. However, it is quickly affirmed, in the unmistakeable Dylan drawl that he is not the eponymous “false prophet”.
Whether the macabre image of the skeletal figure and syringe was Dylan’s prediction of the morbidity of 2020, or simply remarkable timing, it lands especially well.
The vocals are as spritely yet gravelly as 1997’s landmark “Time Out of Mind”, while billowed by undulating horns. The simple but ebullient lead guitar line fuels the remarkably jaunty track as much as the revelatory musings. The guitar part and horns are as beautifully reminiscent of 60’s R&B inspired guitarists, as they are of blues names such as Otis Rush (see 1962’s “Homework”). So much, in fact, it is easy to see the song performed by a wizened Dylan in a hazy, smoke-filled New Orleans lounge of that era.
“Rough and Rowdy Ways” is released June 17th, the first album of original material since 2012’s highly lauded “Tempest”. Despite being a double album, it may fill some with a hearty sigh that the gargantuan “Murder Most Foul” fills the second side. Yet, as “False Prophet” informs, the album remains a puzzling entity in how the other tracks will sound.