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On the Borderline with Senor Bob

  • Sep 10, 2010
Bob Dylan has written a number of Mexican flavored songs. Here are a few of my favorites.
1
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
Dylan has released a number of versions of this Lost Weekend of a song. The action takes place in Juarez where, "the cops don't need ya, and man they expect the same." Our hero starts on on burgundy, "but soon hits the harder stuff," and after a number of (mis)adventures including not being able to "get up and take another shot," finds himself, "goin' back to New York City, I do believe I've had enough." Juarez is not a place for the faint of heart. From Highway 61 Revisted - one of the masterpiece albums, see #2.
2
desolation row
The original release of Desolation Row on the Highway 61 Revisited album has Nashville session musician Charlie McCoy laying down a flamenco guitar track that situates the lyrics in some Hispania of the mind, but the lyrics could easily support a full out R&R, or even jazz backing. Dylan has said Desolation Row is in Mexico, but with Dylan - who really knows? Maybe not even Senor Bob his-own-self.
3
Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)
The apocalypse and the border, two states favored by the troubadour, joined in one song. Dylan is in a hallucinatory state of song writing with this one on an album that came out just before the Christianity influenced Slow Train Coming. In Mexico Senor is a synonym for Jesus, and this song could be heard as a cry to the Savior, "can you tell me what we're waiting for, Senor," or "this place don't make sense to me no more." From Street Legal.
5
Romance in Durango
A terrific narrative song in the mold of Marty Robbins' El Paso. A Mexican boy and his senorita on the lam, heading for Durango after a mix-up and shooting in a cantina. The song is off the Desire LP, and starts with cinematic lyrics that foreshadow a bad end: Hot chili peppers in the blistering sun/dust on my face and my cape/me and Magdelana on the run/this time I think we should escape." Of course they don't . My favorite rendition is on the Bootleg 1975 document of the Rolling Thunder Review where the song gets a kick-ass R&R rendition.
6
Red River Shore
One of those songs that almost didn't get released, for whatever perverse reasons Senor Bob had. Red River Shore is about the love of a girl, and the desire for a quiet life and family, that just wasn't in the cards. The song builds in emotion and musical content (instruments added with every verse) with great accordion playing from Los Lobos's David Hidalgo. This and #7 are proof that even late model Dylan writes like a dream. Released as part of the ongoing Bootleg series on Tell Tale Signs.
7
This Dream of You
From Senor Bob's latest cd, Together Through Life. David Hidalgo provides a real border feel with masterful accordion work. The song starts with these lyrics: How long can I stay in this lonesome cafe/'fore night turns into day/I wonder why I'm so frightened of the dawn/All I have/And all I know/Is this dream of you/Which keeps me living on. This song is an elegiac from a guy who has seen it all, and been battered and bruised in the process. All the exuberance on the first 5 songs on this list turn into a hard won maturity on numbers 6 & 7, and lucky 7 though sad in the extreme, is a good place to leave Senor Bob living the artist's life, on the border.

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About the list creator
Richard Wells ()
Ranked #173
Community Organizer by profession, artist at heart. "I been all 'round this world..."
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