A Dylan Cover a Day 43: High Water

By Tony Attwood

Links to all the previous articles in this series are given below.

There is a particular challenge to be found in a song with very limited melody or indeed a song with virtually no chord changes behind.  Put both facets of music together and you have “High Water”.

Dylan copes brilliantly in High Water, because although the start of each line is monotonal he does vary the melody somewhat, and so each variation becomes more and more noticeable, and the end of each verse does give us those two extra chords.

And if you go back to Bob’s recording, the use of the percussion is superb – utterly restrained but just occasionally coming in to give a sense of the dam finally giving way.

The challenge of a song with such a limited melody and with an even more limited chord changes means that the cover artists have tended to pass the song by.   But there are two covers that really do appeal to me.

Joan Osborne’s version has not only a regular rhythm pattern but also that same guitar riff repeated over and over as a counter melody to her exquisite voice.  I just want it to go on, even when we have verses which are almost monotonal.  When she sings “things are breaking up out there” it feels true.

The introduction of changes to the music after about 1 minute 30 seconds, and then the sudden unexpected stop is to my mind, utterly gorgeous.  That moment when we all think the worst is over, and it really isn’t.   In fact it is easy to miss the subtle changes that the band members introduce through the piece – it is worth playing this over and over just to find them.

Oh if I still played in a band, I’d have us playing this arrangement of this song (assuming anyone would listen to the old man in the corner).

The second version is quite different and full credit to these guys in giving us a different musical introduction.   This is what playing Dylan is all about to my mind – trying something different, experimenting just to see what we get.

Contemporary music depends on bands like this – bands that are very unlikely to become household names (and gentlemen in the band please forgive me if you are the biggest thing south Flordia has ever seen – I’d not come across your music until today).

My point is that they are not just playing Dylan – they are adding something to Dylan.  And by that I don’t mean that this is better than Dylan himself performing the song, but rather they are giving people pleasure, spreading the word, and giving us all a chance to hear the music from a different perspective.

If we didn’t have bands like this, the world would be a much sadder place.   If you would like to know a bit more about the band they have a Facebook page. 

Actually, come to think of it, so do we.  See below!

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Untold Dylan was created in 2008 and is currently published twice a day –  sometimes more, sometimes less.  Details of some of our series are given at the top of the page and in the Recent Posts list, which appears both on the right side of the page and at the very foot of the page (helpful if you are reading on a phone).  Some of our past articles which form part of a series are also included on the home page.

Articles are written by a variety of volunteers and you can read more about them here    If you would like to write for Untold Dylan, do email with your idea or article to Tony@schools.co.uk.  Our readership is rather large (many thanks to Rolling Stone for help in that regard). Details of some of our past articles are also included on the home page.

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2 Responses to A Dylan Cover a Day 43: High Water

  1. Aaron G says:

    We actually mentioned Big Brass Bed once before in the songs about Bob series included their lead singer’s Rod MacDonald – “ I Am Bob Dylan”

    He is an independent artist and has appeared on stage with amongst others Pete Seeger, Peter Yarrow, Odetta and Tom Paxton. Apparently he was the first American artist to tour the Czech Republic.

    He is also lead singer of the band Big Brass Bed which has released 3 albums of Dylan covers.

    https://bob-dylan.org.uk/archives/11776

  2. Larry fyffe says:

    I thought Ronnie Hawkins was Bob Dylan…I’m easily confused

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