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‘Bobby Dylan’ Makes His First Voice Appearance

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Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

April 26, 1962, Vol. VII, No. 27

Records: Bobby Dylan

By J. R. Goddard

A little over a year ago a rather short, peripatetic young man, his beardless, aquiline face crowned by old cap, wandered into Izzy Young’s Folklore Center on MacDougal Street.

Picking up an autoharp, he began mumbling a song about some bloke named Captain Gray. People looked on in amusement as he began hopping around a bit. He was funny to watch, and anybody with half an ear could tell he had a unique style. But few could have guessed on that wintry Sunday morning that a real enfant terrible had arrived on the folk-music scene — or that within a single year he would emerge as one of the most gifted and unusual entertainers in the whole country.

The singer is Bobby Dylan. Ample proof of his talent can be heard in an LP just issued by Columbia Records under the direction of the famed John Hammond (CL 1779, CS 8579).

Right off the bat, this reviewer has to say that the record seems one of the best to come from the boiling folk pot in a long, long time. One reason is that Dylan is blessed with a gift of style — individual, dynamic STYLE! Singing country and folk blues in a sometimes cacophonous, sometimes wavering voice to his own driving guitar (harmonica alternates with voice), he displays a sense of rhythm and timing as good as the old-time singers he’s learned from. And Dylan, who is still but a downy-cheeked 20, can also muster a growling, grumbling force backed up by flailing guitar which can drive you wild.

His first LP shows his wide range. Moribund songs like “Man of Constant Sorrow” or “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” are splendidly, refreshingly done. Then come comic numbers like “Talkin’ New York,” in which Dylan tells how he was cheated-mistreated by Village coffee-house and cabaret owners on landing here. But Dylan remains a masterful pace-changer. No sooner has he finished a driving “Gospel Plow” when he’s turning to beautiful counterpoint in the swinging “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down.”

One of the most notable jobs, however, is one the classic “House of the Rising Sun.” In a version learned from Dave Van Ronk, he wrings the same rare, almost surrealist sense of life and death from it that has marked Van Ronk’s rendering in recent years.

The remainder of the album only reinforces this explosive country-blues debut. It’s a collector’s item already.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

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