Emma Swift: Blonde on the Tracks review – Dylan with a twist

Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 05:00

   
 

Album:
Blonde on the Tracks

Artist:
Emma Swift

Label:
Tiny Ghost Records

Genre:
Singer / Songwriter

Bob Dylan’s ludicrously rich archive of song has been mined by the great and the good, the inept and the inane, but rarely has he been covered so tenderly as on this quietly impressive (and wittily titled) collection by Australian-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Emma Swift. Perhaps this is because it is personal. 

“The idea for the album came about during a long depressive phase,” says Swift, “the kind where it’s hard to get out of bed and get dressed and present to the world as a high-functioning human. I was lost on all fronts, no doubt, but especially creatively.” Struggling to write her debut album, she turned to singing Dylan songs “as a way to have something to wake up for”.  

Of the eight tracks, six were in the can when the pandemic hit. Swfit quickly added two more, including I Contain Multitudes from Dylan’s latest album, Rough and Rowdy Ways. Her intimate reading of this intriguing song works really well in producer Patrick Sansone’s restrained setting. She is not in the business of reshaping the song, or indeed the others, to suit her female voice.

There is no great drama other than the way she reimagines with a woman’s sensibility classics such as Queen Jane Approximately, Simple Twist of Fate and Going Going Gone. The result is eight great songs sung anew with empathy and sensitivity helped by illustrious players, including her partner, Robyn Hitchcock.