As we learned from the film I’m Not There, Bob Dylan might be anybody: a runaway kid, an actor, Cate Blanchett. Perhaps he’s actually the Persuasions, and on this album he’s pulling another gag on us by covering 14 of his most famous songs in doo-wop style. The giveaway that it’s not him is that the singing is simply too good, the arrangements too steeped in a cappella history.
The Persuasions are well past their popular heyday, and this iteration of the band includes only two members from that time. To boot, doing a bunch of Dylan covers simply seems an easy way to get back in with the boomer demographic. But it appears that the artists, freed from any lofty expectations or comeback talk, appear to have simply gotten together and had a very good time singing some truly great songs.
Hearing Bob Dylan’s words rendered with crystal-clear diction and spot-on vocal harmonies is a revelation, as the Persuasions dispense with the jingle-jangle in favor of shooby-doo. They put some bom-bom-boms into “Mr. Tambourine Man” and some doo-doo-doos into “Like a Rolling Stone,” and newer member Dave Revels positively kills it on “Positively 4th Street,” delivering the song’s scathing insults in a sweetly heartbreaking croon.
This article first appeared in the March-April 2011 issue of Utne Reader.