Like his 1975 masterpiece, Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan's new album—his first collection of original songs in seven years—finds him grieving. Only this time it's not about a love affair but his own mortality. "Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear," the 56-year-old songwriter admits. "It's not dark yet, but it's get-tin' there."
The entire album occupies a kind of eerie half-light, with ethereal guitars and weeping fiddles serenading featureless characters. "Nothin' can heal me now but your touch," he tells a lover in " 'Til I Fell in Love with You," yet it's clear that love isn't really on the agenda: What matters is desire, the raw sensation of just being alive.
But if Dylan feels his body ebbing, his muse is in rare form, conjuring a solid album's worth of songs that display his continuing verve as a composer and performer. The standout track is "Highlands," an epic 16-minute talking blues contrasting the everyday hassles of being Bob Dylan with his vision of an elusive, heavenly reward. "I'm gonna get there someday," he says. Here's hoping he's with us a lot longer. (Columbia)