Spirits Of The Ryman (Tambourine Man Records TMR 136/137)
Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN – September 19th, 2007
Disc 1: Intro., Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, Watching The River Flow, You’re A Big Girl Now, The Levee’s Gonna Break, Spirit On The Water, Desolation Row, Workingman’s Blues #2
Disc 2: Things Have Changed, Most Likely You Go Your Way, Meet Me In The Morning (with Jack White), Highway 61 Revisited, Nettie Moore, Summer Days, Masters Of War (encore), Thunder On The Mountain, Blowin’ In The Wind
Bob Dylan played two shows at the Ryman Auditorium in the music capital of the world last September. These are the third and fourth shows out of a total of thirty-one. The first Nashville show is evidence that, in spite of the rumblings that the set lists were becoming a bit predictable, he is still capable of pulling out rarities from his extensive back catalogue to completely surprise concertgoers. Playing at the Ryman charged the audience and band enough, but with Jack White joining Dylan onstage for the first ever performance of “Meet Me In The Morning” elevated this show to legendary status.
It is unfair to think that with almost every Dylan show being captured in crystal clear DAT stereo audience recordings, this one (as far as we know) wasn’t. This tape surfaced soon after the event and given the eight month period where no label issued the show, it seems they were all waiting for a better tape to surface. Unfortunately nothing has come forward and Thinman use the only tape source available. Considered good at best, this was recorded a fair distance from the stage. Ryman has excellent acoustics which help the recording, but the dynamics are limited and a lot of detail is lost on the softer numbers. Be that as it may, it is a listenable and far from the worst recording out there.
Nashville is known for Country & Western but Dylan emphasizes the blues, perhaps in anticipation of White’s cameo. He opens with a terrific “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” setting the tone for the evening. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” is very soft and gentle with more hints of a blues arrangement and is followed by the sledgehammer blues of “Watching The River Flow.” Dylan switches from guitar to the electric piano for “You’re A Big Girl Now” and offers a short break before continuing with the shuffling rhythm of “The Levee’s Gonna Break.” “Desolation Row” is played in the breezy arrangement favored on this tour which is interesting but ultimately doesn’t really convey the pathos of the song very well.
“Things Have Changed” receives its first airing on this tour and would be a more frequent guest in the set lists as the tour goes on. After “Most Likely You Go Your Own Way (And I’ll Go Mine)” Dylan switches again to electric guitar as Jack White comes on stage. There is no announcement but the audience goes crazy in recognition as they begin “Meet Me In The Morning.” White sings the words as if his life depended on it and the slide guitar knocks the front row back. It is remarkable to think that thirty-two years after the song’s release it can sound so fresh and powerful. “Highway 61 Revisited” which follows sounds almost rote and banal afterwards.
“Nettie Moore” is very soft in this recording. The show ends with a great version of “Summer Days.” The three song encore has “Masters Of War” which appears in about half of the shows. “Thunder On The Mountain” from Modern Times is next and the show ends with the lullaby version of “Blowin’ In The Wing.” Spirits Of The Ryman, whose title comes from an online review of the show, is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with glossy paper inserts and silk screened picture discs. Although collectors hope a better tape source would surface, this is still a good way of hearing this legendary show.