I don’t know what affection Bob has for Texas, what part of the state captured the bard’s imagination, but it makes an inordinate number of appearances in his lyrics. Here are my favorite Texas-Dylan songs:
Brownsville Girl: Completely over the top from one of his most panned albums, Knocked Out Loaded. Dylan equals the mastery of weaving timelines and tales together as he did a decade earlier with Tangled Up in Blue. Add in some highly emotive backup singers and some of the best character building one-liners (“The one thing we knew for sure about Henry Porter is that his name wasn’t Henry Porter.” Genius.). It’s a romp that name drops San Anton’, Corpus Christi, Amarillo, and, of course, Brownsville (originally New Danville, by the way).
Blind Willie McTell: Perhaps Dylan’s greatest/most significant work (which he left off Infidels because it would have dwarfed every other track on there). It begins with an arrow on a doorpost as he travels from East Texas, “where many martyrs fell.” From there the song takes you through a history of slavery and violence before landing in the St. James hotel—a place whose namesake by the way is a martyr.
And, for extra credit, check out this live version from 1997 with possibly the most inspired drum work ever to back this lyrically-perfect song:
If You Ever Go to Houston: A new take on an old classic about the dangers of going to Houston. Off the under-the-radar album (and one of our favorites) Together through Life, the accordion does the heavy lifting in this tune.
Murder Most Foul: It was a dark day in Dallas. So begins one of Dylan’s longest-tracks off his latest release, the every-track-is-stellar, Rough and Rowdy Ways. What begins as a recounting of JFK’s assassination turns introspective and an homage to an era that died with him.
She’s Your Lover Now: Bob’s unfinished masterpiece with some of his most angst-filled heartache, he asks if his lover even remembers El Paso. A bonus nugget of Dylan trivia: he mentions postcards of Billy the Kid, which bring me too…
Billy 1 and 4: A twofer! Double mentions of Texas for the tracks no one talks about off the soundtrack for “Pat Garret and Billy the Kid” (a film in which Dylan plays “Alias”—a cowpoke who doesn’t know how to act).