Various Artists

"The New Basement Tapes: Lost On The River"

(Harvest); Pop/rock

By ​Phil ​Bennett

The current unearthing of the extraordinarily prolific Bob Dylan’s unreleased material has seen an avalanche of “new” material, most notably the recent six disc Basement Tapes Complete set.

But just when you thought it was safe to consider your collection complete, along comes the discovery of pages of lyrics that had received no musical coupling!

The New Basement Tapes: Lost On The River is an album’s worth of these, put together with music written and performed by a selection of fairly famous fans including Elvis Costello and Marcus Mumford of Mumford And Sons.

The grainy vocals and sepia toned instrumentation - plucked violins, rattling drumskins, reverb-drenched piano tinkles - create a ghostly, backwoods, swampy feel while the variation in voices provides a constantly intriguing melodic shift, the highlights including Taylor Goldsmith’s stunning Card Shark and Jim James’ dark album opener, Down On The Bottom.

The vocal ace up their sleeves, though, is Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a dead ringer for the fiery Grace Slick, who scorches songs like Spanish Mary with her searing voice and passionate delivery.

T-Bone Burnett’s production, as always, is absolutely spot on - rustic and rusty. You can almost hear the Woodstock cabin floorboards creaking as these simple, satisfying grooves are laid down.

Interestingly, the lyrics themselves are the least interesting facet - they really were the scribbled notes on his back pages that didn’t quite make the cut - but, musically, this disparate group of individuals has met in a room and created something special that captures a time whose spirit allowed musical magic and spontaneity to occur on a regular basis.

Relaxed and richly evocative.

​Phil ​Bennett

Musician, actor, singer, music reviewer, Phil’s interests cover a lot of bases and this is reflected in the music he writes about. From blues to soul, ambient to electronic, Phil writes about artists he feels are interesting, true to their craft and worthy of your ears.