August 1, 2021

Peter Stone Brown Archives

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The Ballad of Blake Mills

Those with their hands on the new Bob Dylan album will see that the credits provide a little puzzle. Aside from Dylan’s band getting the usual name and instrument check, there is a section titled ‘additional musicians’, which includes the great Benmont Tench, Alan Pasqua (who played on the Nobel speech and Street Legal), Fiona Apple and Blake Mills.

What we couldn’t tell was what any of these gifted players were actually playing because the sleeve credits don’t tell that story. Pasqua confirmed he and Tench play on Murder Most Foul, and it’s speculated that Apple also plays piano on this and that Mills added a barely audible harmonium (you hear it at the very start).

What now seems clear is that Mr Blake Mills is the diamond in the Rough and Rowdy Ways.

Mills, a talented solo artist in his own right, has another claim to fame in the land of Dylan. He contributed his cover of Heart of Mine to Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International.

He recently posted on his Instagram the guitar parts he played on 7 of the Bob Dylan songs on Rough and Rowdy Ways. What becomes clear on listening is that the album would have in no way been as musically elegant without his parts, if indeed these are the parts he played. What a fine, fine musician either way.

As Mills posted on his Instagram with the release of this new and classic Bob Dylan masterwork:

“I got to do the one thing I have always dreamt of doing, and it turned out to be better than the dream. Congratulations to everyone involved in making this album, thank you all for allowing me to be a part of it, and for giving me an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life. Where do we go from here?!”

Here are the songs, a favourite of mine being the very pretty Ry Cooder infused lullaby I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You. Thank you Blake for your immense contribution to the finest Dylan album in decades.