Tell Ol’ Bill Sessions (Thinman-35)
Studio 4, Conshohocken, PA – June 17th, 2005
1-12 Tell Ol’ Bill – sessions 13. Tell Ol’ Bill – final version
The film North Country is “a semi-fictionalized account of a long legal battle of group of women miners who endured a hostile work environment and numerous and continuous insults and unwanted touching when they became the first women to go work at the Eveleth Mines in Minnesota”, according to the plot summary on the international movie data base. The soundtrack contains many Dylan songs including “Lay Lady Lay”, “Sweetheart Like You”, “Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others)”, “Paths of Victory”, and of course “Girl Of The North Country”. “Tell Ol’ Bill” is the only original song on the soundtrack and is Dylan’s first original song since the release of 2001’s Love And Theft. The song occurs several times throughout the film and refers to the character Bill White, the lawyer played by Woody Harrelson who represented the women in the lawsuit.
This tape contains more than an hour of the run-throughs with Dylan and his touring band in pristine quality. It first surfaced on the internet in August and is one of the most exciting tapes to appear in a long time. These are the first Dylan outtakes to circulate since the Oh Mercy sessions surfaced many years ago. The tape begins with the tail end of a run through which stops with Bob complaining he can’t hear Stu’s part and Elana not being able to hear anything at all.
“Let’s forget all of the turnarounds…and make it thick.” The third track has two run-throughs, the first being slower heavier with more force on the beats followed by the first verse again in a quicker tempo with Dylan saying it “breathes better when the instruments come in with the vocal…And we’ll put a turnaround back in”. This version also contains extra lyrics not in the final version: “From white to green, from brown to black / Not one more minute can I waste / They go too far, they drive me mad / At a slow and steady pace”. The fourth track contains the band working on the breaks and discussing the tempo before another full run through on track five.
The previous versions of the song were played in Db but this is played in Bb with the song ending with Dylan saying, “yea we did the stop good” and wanting to change everything about it including playing it in a minor key. The sixth track is a rehearsal in Bbm which ends in some discussion. Track seven is a full run through in the minor key which sounds very much like “Man Gave Names To All The Animals” from Slow Train Coming. On track eight they go back to the major key and give the song a different shuffle rhythm before a full run through in track nine in Ab with Dylan saying “that sounded very good from here!”
The tenth track is very similar to the ninth in the same key but with a softer drumbeat. Track eleven goes to the key of Db with the piano sounding higher in the mix and Dylan clearing his throat and ending with him saying he can’t sing in this key. They change the key back to Bb and play a run through. Thinman include the finished version at the very end making this a very comprehensive, nicely packaged release of this fascinating tape.