Dan Israel on Bob Dylan and Blood On the Tracks Live event
Photo By Steven Cohen
With the recent announcement of a new album and forthcoming St. Paul show, the local adulation for Bob Dylan shows no sign of dying down anytime soon. And that enduring love for all things Bob continues with events like Blood On The Tracks Live, which is set to take place Saturday night at the Veterans Amphitheater in Wolfe Park, located in St. Louis Park.
This free event is a celebration of Dylan's music for people of all ages, and is lead by Kevin Odegard, the Minneapolis-based guitarist who played along with Bob on his legendary album, Blood On The Tracks. This is the fourth year that this highly entertaining show has found its way to Wolfe Park, and the event continues to have a strong local musical flavor, especially with the involvement of St. Louis Park native Dan Israel.
Gimme Noise was able to ask Israel a few questions in advance of the performance tomorrow night, and he opens up about how he got involved in the project, what he's got in store for the show, and what he feels the lasting appeal is for Bob Dylan and his music.
Gimme Noise: How did you get involved in Blood On The Tracks live?
Dan Israel: A few years ago, they did their first show at the Pantages Theater - a lot of local musicians were involved, including Adam Levy and Martin Devaney. I went backstage and met Kevin Odegard, and I told him I'd love to be involved if they ever did this again. When they revived the show at the St. Louis Park venue (Wolfe Park Amphitheater), Kevin graciously asked me to participate, and I've now been playing at the event for the past four years.
Besides Kevin Odegard, what other musicians are involved?
Well, there's Matt Fink (Dr. Fink) and Bobby Z from Prince and the Revolution. Always very cool to get to work with them. Also Paul Metsa, Gene Lafond, Mary Jane Alm, Patty Peterson, Courtney Yasmineh, James Loney, Barry Thomas Goldberg, Gary Lopac, Lonnie Knight, Steve Grossman, Marc Percansky, Billy Hallquist....and one of the drummers is Stan Kipper, who played with James Taylor and many many others and - get this - was actually the drummer on the classic rock staple "Thunder Island" by Jay Ferguson! Many others too...
Do you all spend a lot of time rehearsing leading up to these events, or are you all such Dylan aficionados that playing his music comes easily for all of you?
Oh, we always rehearse. Maybe it's not very "Bob-like" to rehearse, but we rehearse! And frankly, a lot of Dylan tunes are not as simple as they first appear to be. He doesn't necessarily throw a million fancy chords into every song, but the phrasing, timing, and rhythm are crucial to doing Bob songs - gotta get that right!
Has Kevin shared any cool stories about what it was like recording with Dylan back in the day?
He has - I read his book too. A lot of great stories in there. A couple of times when I've played the show, Kevin has let me use his acoustic guitar. That would be, um, the guitar that opens up "Tangled Up in Blue." Yes, for real.
Obviously, living in Minnesota almost requires local music fans to be in tune with all things Bob. But what do you think explains Dylan's enduring appeal for the rest of the world?
The appeal is that Bob is the greatest living songwriter of the rock era, period. Maybe don't even need to add "living" - he's just the greatest, period. The Beatles knew it, the Stones knew it....the way that Bob Dylan married the concept of lyrics that actually meant something to the ferocious power of rock and roll - nobody could ever repeat that. It was a once-in-eternity occurrence. His songs have lasting power - many of them are timeless, and will endure for eons. Very few of them sound dated...in fact, many of the Dylan tunes from the '60s actually get better with age.
What song(s) do you have worked out for the performance tomorrow? What else is in store for the show?
Do I have to tell? Kind of wanted to keep it a surprise....well, I'll be coy and give a hint....I kind of agonized over my song this year, because I wasn't sure I should do it. It's a pretty controversial Bob song, but I've always wanted to play it, so I just decided to go for it and let the chips fall where they may. It's from Infidels, and it isn't a very subtle song....is that enough info? People will have to come out to hear it. Not everybody will like it, I can guarantee that, but that's the beauty of Bob - he zigs and he zags and sometimes he flat-out pisses people off.
Anyway, after having a "Blood on the Tracks" theme for one year (for obvious reasons) and a "Blonde on Blonde" theme another year, the show has been thrown wide open the past couple years and artists are free to choose whatever Bob songs suit their fancy - so expect variety, spanning all eras of Bob. One minute it's '60s Bob, then it's '90s Bob, you just never know!
I know it's a hard question, and for me it's always changing--But what is your favorite Dylan song and album, and why?
Wow....well, tough one for me, too. It's always changing - I can't say I can narrow it down to a favorite song, but these continue to be my favorite Dylan albums, not necessarily in any order: Bringing it All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, John Wesley Harding, Slow Train Coming, Blood on the Tracks, Oh Mercy, Infidels, New Morning, Desire, Bootleg Series -Volume 3, and Time Out of Mind.
As for why I chose these - because they seem to span the breadth of Bob's artistic leanings in many ways - from his early "electricification" and intense apocalyptic imagery on "Bringing it All Back Home" to the "post-motorcycle accident" almost-Biblical undertones and simple acoustic guitar/bass/drums arrangements of "John Wesley Harding" to....you get the idea - born-again Bob, rocker Bob, folk Bob, Daniel Lanois-produced Bob - the guy has so many sides, and they're all fascinating.
Blood On The Tracks Live is Saturday night at Veterans Amphitheater in Wolfe Park in St. Louis Park. It is a free, all-ages event, and will start at 6:30 p.m. The performance will also serve as a Guitars For Vets benefit.
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