Bob Dylan's best since Time Out of Mind

It's been a quiet start to the year for me, in terms of album-reviewing. I've got a stack to get on with, plenty of things clogging up my phone and iPods, a few records too. And I've started to post a few new reviews - but January was a quiet month, I was away/offline for nearly half of it.

This time last year I already had three or four favourite new albums. So I'm pleased to find that the first week of February has delivered my first favourite album of 2015. And, beyond pleased, I'm surprised that it's the new album by Bob Dylan.

Surprised, because I wasn't much of a fan of his last studio album. My description of his voice as seeming like Bob Dylan-pretending-to-be-Tom Waits-pretending-to-be-Bob Dylan even made an international list of descriptions of Bob's voice.

I love Dylan, sure, but I haven't really cared about anything he's done in nearly 20 years. Add to the confusion that the new Dylan album is a set of covers - songs made famous by Frank Sinatra. When I heard about this album, late last year, I was nervous. It could only be a car-crash. Something worse than the boring albums he's been making. Something possibly dreadful.

But no. Bob's done it. Made something worthwhile once again.

Maybe everyone else will hate it - I don't know, it's early days, and I've thus far avoided reading about the album elsewhere, so I don't know how it's doing. But it's brand new, out this week - and I love it. I spent the weekend playing it over and over. The songs were already known, but so many of them felt brand new here. Brand new, but also even older than the versions I knew. Dylan's version of the standards album isn't that brassy but ball-less take the likes of Rod Stewart and Michael Bublé have been peddling. He takes these songs and hangs them up in a new space, lets new light through. In particular the pedal steel shines.

And that voice is back to being an instrument in its own right.

I'm a sucker for hearing a chewed up, gnarled, nearly tattered voice singing some sad love-song lament. That's my jam. And Dylan nails it here - right across the album. It's also a brief affair - perfect, because every Dylan album since Infidels has been too long.

It's also another example of the best songwriters offering the best cover-versions. I believe this is most often the case. A great songwriter understands what makes a song tick, knows how to find the heart of the tune, knows the sweet spots.

Well, I'm curious to know what you think of the brand new Bob Dylan record - or if you're even prepared to give it a go.

I reckon it's worth it - here's my full review of Shadows In The Night.

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