Saturday, November 9, 2013

Dylan Rendition of Thirsty Boots Exemplifies Why Self Portrait Period Was Richer Than He Got Credit For

One of the reasons some critics disliked Self Portrait is because Dylan was doing covers of other peoples' material. What they didn't understand is that how a song is delivered means as much in the Dylan vocabulary as the words. Bob Dylan by his early twenties had already established himself as a lyricist. But there was something else he'd already demonstrated. He wasn't about to be put in a box. He left folk to go rock, left rock to go Nashville. Who wrote the rule that says you can't do covers?

Eric Andersen's Thirsty Boots was one of many songs Dylan recorded for Self Portrait that never made it to the vinyl. What a pleasure it was for Dylan fans when the vaults were opened and Another Self Portrait made this and so many others accessible to the wider public.

Andersen was one of the many singer/songwriters from the Greenwich Village circles Dylan swirled in. Thirsty Boots, written during the roiling civil rights era, first appeared on Andersen's album 'Bout Changes and Things, but became better known after having been recorded by Judy Collins, John Denver and The Kingston Trio. It's a beautiful song, made even moreso by the heartfelt manner in which Dylan delivers it here on Bootleg Series #10.

Thirsty Boots was recorded as part of the March 4, 1970 session in New York with Al Kooper, David Bromberg, Emanuel Green, Alvin Rogers and Stu Wood. The song begins with the harmonica carrying the tune accompanied by a gentle guitar. As the harmonica yields to Dylan's melancholy vocal tonalities one is immediately riveted. "You've been long out on the open road..."  It is a song from one offering comfort. Life's been a battle for those aching to make a difference, and the singer of this song seeks to bring solace.

Andersen, who did not go on the civil rights marches himself, locked arms in spirit with those who went south, as did many from that time. Though presented now in a different context, the song still has a calming effect as it reaches out from one heart to another in a manner that connects.

Thirsty Boots

You've been long out on the open road you've been sleepin' in the rain
From the dirty words and muddy cells your clothes are soiled and stained
But the dirty words and the muddy cells will soon be judged insane
So only stop and rest yourself and you are off again
Oh take off your thirsty boots
And stay for awhile
Your feet are hot and weary from a dusty mile
And maybe I can make you laugh
And maybe I can try
Just lookin' for the evenin'
And the mornin' in your eyes

Then tell me of the ones you saw
As far as you could see
Across the plains from field to town
Marchin' to be free
And of the rusted prison gates that tumble by degree
Like laughing children one by one
Who look like you and me
So take off your thirsty boots and stay for awhile
Your feet are hot and weary from a dusty mile
And maybe I can make you laugh and maybe I can try
Just lookin' for the evenin' and the mornin' in your eyes

I know that you're no stranger down the crooked rainbow trail
From dancing cliff edge shattered sills of slander shackled jails
Where the voices drift up from below as walls are being scaled
Yes all of this and more my friend your song shall not be failed
Oh take off your thirsty boots and stay for awhile
Your feet are hot and weary, from a dusty mile
And maybe I can make you laugh, and maybe I can try
Just lookin for the evenin' and the mornin' in your eyes

So take off your thirsty boots and stay for awhile
Your feet are hot and weary from a dusty mile
And maybe I can make you laugh and maybe I can try
Lookin' for the evenin' and the mornin' in your eyes.

Song by Eric Andersen

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dylan's version of Thirsty Boots is lousy.

ENNYMAN said...

I found it moving, for which reason I researched its background a bit and wanted to share it. From what I hear there are some other versions. Thanks fr stopping by though.

the dylanshrine said...

Bob does a wonderful cover of this song and if you check out the many songs he has covered you will find he makes them his own.

Dave.E said...

An interesting piece I too have been captivated by Bob's great performance of this wonderful song.Having never heard it before I have been meaning to research and find out more about it - thanks for saving me the trouble!
Also big thanks for printing the lyrics as I now know he is not singing about 'muddy sails'... it makes it a whole lot clearer (tho slightly less mysterious)