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Classic Album Reviews: Various Artists | Nod to Bob: An Artists’ Tribute to Bob Dylan / In the Beginning: A Songwriter’s Tribute to Garth Brooks

These tributes to the folk OG & the cowboy capitalist couldn't be more different.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


They both purport to celebrate beloved American troubadours, but these two tribute albums to folk OG Bob Dylan and cowboy capitalist Garth Brooks couldn’t be more different.

On one, you’ve got artists performing the works of a legendary songwriter; on the other, you’ve got songwriters reclaiming their works from a legendary performer. Who wins? To be honest, it’s a draw. Nod to Bob, compiled in honour of Dylan’s 60th birthday, is the more predictable affair, with folk and blues artists such as Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Suzzy and Maggie Roche and former Winnipeggers Hart-Rouge dispensing respectful if not always inspired versions of chestnuts like It Ain’t Me Babe and Don’t Think Twice, it’s All Right. (Extra points to Tom Landa & the Playboys, who turn All Along the Watchtower into a rollicking Celtic reel.) By contrast, In the Beginning feels like an anti-tribute disc, as its faceless country tunesmiths work to remind us Garth may be the star, but they write the songs. Trouble is, only a few — notably bourbon-voiced Tony Arata (Face to Face), Dollyish Stephanie Davis (We Shall Be Free) and laid-back Dewayne Blackwell (Friends in Low Places) — have performing skills to match their songwriting chops. The rest demonstrate the age-old truth: It’s the singer, not the song.