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Rewinding 2021 | Roots Music

There were plenty of worthy options — but in the end, it's hard not to go with Dylan.


I briefly considered hair-splitting this category into more specific genres — Americana, folk, country, bluegrass, rockabilly, roots-rock, singer-songwriters and blah blah blah. Thankfully, I talked myself out of that lunacy. So roots music it is. This is another one category where almost all the Honourable Mentions are worthy of being the top choice. But in the end, it’s hard not to go with a box set of Bob Dylan rarities.



Bob Dylan
Springtime In New York: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 16 (1980-1985)

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The 16th chapter in Bob Dylan’s highly acclaimed Bootleg Series, Springtime In New York revisits an often-forgotten, rich vein in Dylan’s vast and complex catalog, shining fresh light on the provocative new musical directions he was taking as a songwriter and a recording artist from 1980 through 1985.

In the early 1980s, while the music industry was grappling with the arrival of new trends and technology, from MTV to compact discs to digital recording, Dylan was writing and recording new songs for a new decade, creating an essential new chapter in his studio catalog. Springtime In New York (1980-1985) celebrates the rich creative period surrounding Dylan’s albums Shot Of Love, Infidels and Empire Burlesque with previously unreleased outtakes, alternate takes, rehearsal recordings, live performances and more.

The deluxe five-CD edition of the album presents 57 rare recordings, 54 of them previously unreleased in any format. The previously released cuts include two Shot Of Love outtakes: Let It Be Me (first released as B-side to Heart of Mine) and Don’t Ever Take Yourself Away (first released on Hawaii Five-O: Original Songs From The Television Series). A third previously released recording, Death Is Not The End (an Infidels outtake featuring Full Force) first appeared in an edited version on Down In The Groove and may now be heard for the first time in full.

Disc 1 was recorded in 1980 and 1981 and finds Dylan rehearsing a variety of his own catalog compositions (Señor (Tales of Yankee Power), To Ramona), rearranging some traditional folk tunes (Jesus Met the Woman at the Well, Mary of the Wild Moor) and revving up a selection of surprising covers (Mystery Train featuring Ringo Starr, Sweet Caroline, Fever, Abraham, Martin and John) with a group of musicians including Fred Tackett (guitar), David Mansfield (mandolin), Willie Smith (keyboards), Tim Drummond (bass), Jim Keltner (drums) and background vocals by Clydie King, Carolyn Dennis, Gwen Evans and Regina McCrary.

Disc 2 is devoted to outtakes and alternate takes of recordings produced by Chuck Plotkin for Shot of Love, while Discs 3 and 4 are centered on the material Dylan wrote for Infidels, performed by the all-star band assembled for the album which featured Mark Knopfler (guitar), Mick Taylor (guitar), Alan Clark (keyboards), Robbie Shakespeare (bass) and Sly Dunbar (drums). The Infidels sessions, produced by Dylan and Knopfler, include previously unreleased versions of Blind Willie McTell and Jokerman.

Disc 5 includes live tracks (Enough Is Enough from Slane Castle, Ireland, and License to Kill from Late Night with David Letterman, March 22, 1984) alongside alternate takes and outtakes from the Empire Burlesque sessions, produced by Dylan, including premieres of new songs (Straight A’s in Love and New Danville Girl, an early draft of Brownsville Girl) and a previously unreleased performance of the canonical Dark Eyes.

According to the producer’s note in the album: “The alternate takes selected for this set are different than the ones released on previous volumes of The Bootleg Series. They are included here to illustrate the musical journey Bob Dylan undertook during these years.” In his liner notes, Damien Love writes, “And that’s the real story of this gloriously untrammeled collection. The songs. The songs stripped free of trappings, tampering, passing tastes, and judgments. The songs broken down to the sound of people really doing this, right now, acting on instinct. The songs rough and rowdy, bruised and tender, joking and crying, nagging and striving and yearning. The songs were always there, and here they are still, keeping pace with us.”


Ryan Adams | Big Colors
The Band | Cahoots 50th Anniversary Edition
The Band | Stage Fright 50th Anniversary Edition
Boy Golden | Church Of Better Daze
Billy Bragg | The Million Things That Never Happened
Jackson Browne | Downhill From Everywhere
Brandi Carlile | In These Silent Days
Wild Billy Childish & CTMF | Where the Wild Purple Iris Grows
Turner Cody & The Soldiers Of Love | Friends In High Places
David Crosby | For Free
Rodney Crowell | Triage
Steve Earle | J.T.
The Felice Brothers | From Dreams to Dust
Robert Finley | Sharecropper’s Son
The Flatlanders | Treasure Of Love
John Hiatt with The Jerry Douglas Band | Leftover Feelings
Houndmouth | Good For You
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit | Georgia Blue
Pokey LaFarge
| In The Blossom of Their Shade
Amythyst Kiah | Wary + Strange
Jim Lauderdale | Hope
Legendary Shack Shakers | Cockadoodledeux
Los Lobos | Native Sons
Lucero | When You Found Me
James McMurtry | The Horses and The Hounds
Gurf Morlix | The Tightening Of The Screws
Bones Owens | Bones Owens
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss | Raise the Roof
Reigning Sound | A Little More Time with Reigning Sound
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band | Dance Songs for Hard Times
Brian Setzer | Gotta Have The Rumble
Sturgill Simpson | The Ballad Of Dood & Juanita
Todd Snider | First Agnostic Church Of Hope And Wonder
Joe Strummer | Assembly
Tony Joe White
| Smoke From The Chimney
Son Volt | Electro Melodier
William Loveday Intention | They Wanted The Devil But I Sang Of God
Adia Victoria
| A Southern Gothic
Brandy Zdan | Falcon


Eric Bibb | Dear America
Scott H. Biram | Fever Dreams
Bobbo Byrnes | SeaGreenNumber5
Johnny Cash | Bear’s Sonic Journals: Live At The Carousel Ballroom, April 24 1968
Eric Church | Heart
Crazy Arm | Dark Hands, Thunderbolts
Steve Cropper | Fire It Up
Adam Douglas | Better Angels
Riley Downing | Start It Over
Ana Egge | Between Us
Melissa Etheridge | One Way Out
Far Lands | There Be Monsters
Bendigo Fletcher | Fits Of Laughter
Emmylou Harris & The Nash Ramblers | Ramble In Music City: The Lost Concert (1990)
Lilly Hiatt | Lately
Hipbone Slim and the Kneetremblers | Tremblin’
Malcolm Holcombe | Tricks of the Trade
Ida Mae | Click Click Domino
Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert & Jon Randall | The Marfa Tapes
Wanda Jackson | Encore
Seth James | Different Hat
Robert Jon & The Wreck | Shine A Light On Me Brother
Valerie June | The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers
Damien Jurado | The Monster Who Hated Pennsylvania
John Paul Keith | The Rhythm Of The City
Daniel Knox | Won’t You Take Me With You
Veronica Lewis | You Ain’t Unlucky
Lord Huron | Long Lost
Loretta Lynn | Still Woman Enough
Jimbo Mathus & Andrew Bird | These 13
Shannon McNally | The Waylon Sessions
Jeremy James Meyer | Alive & OK
Modern Fools | Seer
Moonshine Booze | Pandemonio
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real | A Few Stars Apart
Willie Nelson | That’s Life
New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers | Vol. 2
Nine Pound Hammer | When The S#​*​t Goes Down
Charlie Parr | Last of the Better Days Ahead
The Pink Stones | Introducing… The Pink Stones
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats | The Future
Lee Rocker | Gather Round
Maggie Rose | Have A Seat
Connie Smith | The Cry Of The Heart
Southern Culture On The Skids | Kudzu Records Presents
Kelley Stoltz | Ah! (Etc)
Swift Silver | Swift Silver
Tigers Jaw | I Won’t Care How You Remember Me
Various Artists | Mighty Fine: An Austin City Limits Tribute to Walter Hyatt
Dale Watson | Dale Watson Presents The Memphians
Afton Wolfe | Kings For Sale
Carolyn Wonderland | Tempting Fate
Yola | Stand For Myself
James Yorkston & The Second Hand Orchestra | The Wide, Wide River
Neil Young | The Neil Young Official Bootleg Series: Carnegie Hall 1970
Neil Young | Young Shakespeare
Neil Young & Crazy Horse | Barn
Neil Young & Crazy Horse | Way Down In The Rust Bucket