Bob Dylan is no easy cover. His distinctive voice, both vocally and lyrically, make it nearly impossible for many artists to capture the proper temperament. There are even some Dylan lyrics that just sound, well, wrong coming from the throats of anyone but him. Antony Hegarty’s gift for interpreting the music of others, however, has been on its finest display when he picks up the works of Dylan – something he has done several times in his career. Whether it’s taking a well-known standard and re-routing its soul, plumbing the rarer corners for more reverent treatments or taking less considered work and giving it new life, Antony’s channeling of Hibbing’s bard has been breathtaking.
Antony tackled “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” for the I’m Not There soundtrack and he takes what in the hands of Dylan was a defiant, stubbornly lost and almost bitter dirge and makes it something much more resigned and accepting. He’d go from the obvious to the rare on the Dark Was the Night benefit album by attempting “I Was Young When I Left Home.” It’s one of the more straight ahead covers that he’s attempted and it serves the song’s simplicity and story well. Finally, earlier this year he tackled the ‘born again’ era “Pressing On” and completely subverts it into a mechanical, hypnotic clockwork of a song that chimes and rings its way through its repetitious reading. And while it might be the least impressive of his Dylan readings, it illustrates the depths of the risks Antony has been willing to entertain with a body of work as sacrosanct as Dylan’s. words/ j neas
MP3: Antony and the Johnsons :: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan)
MP3: Antony and the Johnsons :: I Was Young When I Left Home (Bob Dylan)
MP3: Antony and the Johnsons :: Pressing On (Bob Dylan)