Buckle up, folks, because we have some miles to cover and some great songs to settle into that plush 1973 bus seat (yeah, I scrapped mine out of a junkyard in New Jersey so they don’t fit quite right). We have a healthy dose of tunes to get us across The Grand Canyon State.
Way Out West: The song begins in Morincio, Arizona, and Marty Stuart wanders across the west in psychedelic fashion—pills and aliens and circus acts that take us from Texas to California. It’s a cautionary tale for sure.
Sedona: Catchy as they come with a hook sharp as a tack. Houndmouth is unmistakably on the top of their game with this light-as-air yet lyrically-heavy song. It takes us to Cali, but our heart on this one stays in Arizona.
Under African Skies: After visiting Muscle Shoals and hearing the tale of how Paul Simon is actually kind of a terrible person who regularly does not pay his backing talent and is apparently being sued by any number of musicians at any point in time, I had to take a break from him. He is one of my favorite musicians. (For what it is worth, Bob Seger is apparently a true gent and when he heard of Simon’s nefariousness, he gave more of his own royalties of “Old Time Rock n’ Roll” to the Muscle Shoals crew.) Anyway, this song is amazing. In my Tennessee songlist I raved about Graceland because it deserves rave reviews. It’s a perfect album start to finish and here we have what should be a bridge track, but it transcends being song glue and tells us a story that is rich and cross cultural and it mentions Tuscon.
Tombstone Blues: Only Bob could pull off the amphetamine-fueled paranoid-as-hell, peeking-through-the blinds and chattering-on-a-phone-that’s-not-plugged-in sound that permeates Highway 61 Revisited. But then flash forward to the end of the Trump presidency amidst a global pandemic and Dylan staring down his mortal coil and he releases a surreal black-and-white rendition as part of Shadow Kingdom. If ever there was a time for mania, this would have been it. But Dylan is Dylan and he never does the obvious thing. Instead we receive a gospelesque incantation that forces us to ponder the lyrics word by word instead of having them pummel our brains as they did for decades now. Perhaps this best illustrates my appreciation for Dylan as an artist—his willingness to make new stuff old again, to see things from a different point of view. Unfortunately, the track is not available on Spotify, so for the purposes of our ever-growing playlist, I’m gonna go with the version he did for MTV Unplugged.