When asked for a one liner for this review, Dr. Damian Carpenter with degrees in English and American Folk Music, said “Self Portrait’ is delightful compost for the tired soul.” You see, Damian hit on a descriptor I would have missed, ‘delightful’. Twenty four songs, two of which he wrote and the rest, a hodgepodge of tunes which have meaning to his development or just plain, to his liking. The opening track, which his vocals never appear on.
Let’s start there, ‘All the Tired Horses’, a slow swing song sung by a background of women, guitar, strings etc. The temperament of this opening track foreshadow much of the rest. Easy to listen to and yes Damian, delightful.To paraphrase Dylan’s own rational behind the album, he said, “I took whatever worked and threw it at a wall. Whatever stuck I used and what didn’t, I used too”.
Well, after a short time, to those dedicated to Dylan’s work, they all stick. A bit ‘loosey goosey’ in their performance and production, the sound gets to the bones. You’ll find yourself humming or whistling some of these sing song tunes, if you’re like me that is. High points? ‘Alberta #1’, ‘I Forgot More Then You’ll Ever Know’, ‘Days of 49’, ‘Early Morning Rain’, the list goes on of these shuffling songs!
We’ll touch on top of the peak songs in mine and one in Dr. Carpenter’s opinion.A moonshiner ballad (that just sounds cool), ‘Copper Kettle (the pale moonlight)’, is a loving song of a speaker, presumably male, caring for the needs of his love. One of my all time favorite Dylan covers other then ‘Mutineer’, Warren Zevon’s love ballad, covered by Dylan in the early 1990’s. If you dig either artist, check that song out live. The doctor’s favorite track on the album? A live version of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’. Damian’s favorite in spite of all the live shows he’s seen it played at and the epic studio cut.
Graced with one of Dylan’s paintings on the front, a painting done on a scrap of paper and submitted for the cover, these twenty four songs express Dylan’s D.N.A, musically. Not the songs he cut his teeth on in Washington Square Park. No not Greenwich Village folk but timely sounding ditties, yes ditties, perfect for a 1970 release. Once again, to know this album is to love it. Give it a whirl, my first thought on listening, “What have you done?”, by now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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