Right hand road blues: another lost Dylan composition found

By Tony Attwood, with lyrics for the song transcribed by Larry Fyffe, research by Aaron Gailbraith

Right Hand Road Blues is a song from the “After the Empire” outtake album which was recorded in 1984 but not released (unofficially of course) until 2016.


Here’s a version of the lyrics, valiantly provided by Larry.  If you have suggestions for alternatives please do write in…

Right Hand Road Blues

Take the right hand road
You gonna treat me better
Take the right hand road
They got some crazy perttita
Down there
And it can bloodhound roll

Well they call me that simple
But then I must feel fine
Well I’m leavin’ this here town
But Izzy runs her line
Well you can forget to pee, but
Down on the riverside

She got her homely foot in there
She rides like a bloody mare
She got a whole league of syphilis
She runs like pearly mare
Oh but oh, he gets her
I hope I don’t see you there

Well if you gonna call me devil
Take the right hand road
Well you’re gonna treat me better
Take the right hand road
They got some crazy matoco
About to blew your load

Come on, baby
How ’bout Chicago way
I’ll buy you a manor
Way down Chicago way
She grabs her partner
You oughta see her give things away.

Bye, bye,
Good-bye, baby, I’m gone
Bye, bye
Tell my baby, I’m gone
Well we goin’ down to see Anna,
I’m about to have carrion

So what we have here is a standard variant 12 bar blues, in which the first and second line of the verses are not only identical in terms of lyrics, they are also identical in terms of the chord sequence.

Now if we start tracking back we can find a song by Fred McDowell called “Going down to the river” that starts with

I'm goin' down that river I'm goin'-a take that right hand road 
I'm goin' down the river I'm goin-a take that right hand road Lord, 
I ain't gon' stop walkin' 'Till I get in sweet mama's arms

I think the right hand road generally means the “good path” – going in the right direction morally.   Recordings of the McDowell song are available and they are nothing like Dylan’s song.

There is also a Right Hand Road Blues by Brian Langlinais which is a 12 bar blues appearing on his album “Right hand road” released in 2016.   Although there are similarities again this is not the same song.  The song is available on Spotify.

Michael Messer also has a song called “Right hand road” and on the same album there is a song “Rollin and Tumblin” which is the Dylan song in terms of the musical construction, but not using Dylan’s lyrics.  Actually it is a really nice performance and the instrumental break really is something to behold.  I know I supposed to be writing about Right hand road but this is quite a find.

There is also a 12 bar blues song, by Furry Lewis which is available on Amazon music – but again not the song Bob sings.

All of which leads me to the simple conclusion that this is a Dylan original, using a moderately common blues phrase “right hand road” in the same way that with “Rolling and Tumblin” Dylan took a popular blues theme and then added his own words.




  1. * “I’ll get you manor”…..not ‘buy’ you

    Instead it could be “I’ll treat you better …”

    Any thoughts out there on that, or other phrasing??

  2. “When you look at a wall spotted with stains, or with a mixture of stones, if you have to devise some scene, you may discover a resemblance to various landscapes . . . ; or again you may see battles and figures in action; or strange faces and costumes, and an endless variety of objects, which you can then reduce to complete and well drawn forms. . . . It should not be hard for you to stop sometimes and look into the stains of walls, or ashes of a fire, or clouds, or mud or like places, in which if you consider them well, you may find really marvelous ideas. The mind of the painter is stimulated to new discoveries, the composition of battles of animals and men, various compositions of landscapes and monstrous things, which may bring you honor, because by indistinct things the mind is stimulated to new inventions.”
    –Leonardo da Vinci

    In other words, the transcription above doesn’t have much to do with the dummy lyrics Bob is barking out, but that’s all right. It’s pretty impressive in its own right.

    I’ll just note that in the last two lines he says “Now we’re going down deep Ellum / I’m about to ha- carry on.” Nothing about carrion. Good lord.

  3. Many thanks, that’s a big help… I wasn’t
    aware of the Texas place name.

    Yes indeed…..

    “Now we’re goin’ down to Deep Ellum”

    Dylan likes punning-

    ‘Matoco’ And ‘Carrion’ (not dead meat) are words connected to Spanish;

    So they might be correct ???

    Thanks again, Morton.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *