Polish Hollis Brown should remind us all of what is happening elsewhere

By Tony Attwood

I had an interesting email from Filip Łobodziński, who as I am sure you will recall if you are a regular reader of Untold, contributes to our site occasionally from Poland.

Within the email Filip pointed me to, “an interesting reminder of Dylan’s Ukrainian roots,” which is certainly worth taking a look at.

The article was written in 2017, and begins… ” “Bob Dylan! One more pride of Odessa,” reads the large billboard standing in front of City Hall in the Black Sea port city of Odessa. It is painted, with a famous image of the bard in one of his iconic pork pie hats.”

You may also recall that Filip has contributed articles and recordings from his band Dylan.pl and indeed a while back we were able to feature one of the band’s live concerts on the site.

On this occasion however Filip then went on to write to me about Martyna Jakubowicz, a Polish folk-blues-rock singer, who “has been singing Dylan songs for years… She released two albums full of covers in the 2000s.

“The translations are by her ex-husband (with whom she collaborates on a regular basis, Andrzej Jakubowicz lives in Florida, I think, but keeps in touch with his ex).

“I find this cover particularly captivating because of the porch rocking bench sound as a rhythm track.”

Now, I think this is an amazing cover – and it does exactly what I want cover versions to do.  It thinks about what is in the song, and then avoids all notions of just copying what the composer / performer did, but sees where else and how much further this can go further.

The sound effect that Filip mentions – of the rocking chair on the porch – at the start which continues as the only accompaniment to the opening verse is incredibly disturbing, and thus immensley powerful.  And I guess what I was expecting was the introduction of a second sound or an accompanying instrument for the second verse – but no, we are into the full accompaniment.  It’s always good to be a) taken by surprise and b) have a surprise that retains the artistic integrity of the music.

This really is disturbing, and that is exactly what this song ought to be.  And indeed this is the problem with Dylan’s heritage.  We know so much of it so well that songs that were once disturbing now fail to disturb.  That’s not Dylan’s fault – it is just familiarity playing its tricks.  But familiarity can be beaten, as this track shows.

This recording indeed keeps me transfixed even though I don’t understand a word of the language, and the verses without the accompaniment add to that – especially the final verse where that disturbing sound returns.  They are all dead, the rocking chair continues to be rocked by the wind, with no one else there.  How long did it take before the bodies were found?  Did anyone mourn them?  Did someone have the decency to pay for a proper funeral?

For me, this is the heritage of Dylan’s work that I want.   To know the originals inside out so I don’t have to play them because I can run them in my head, but then to be disturbed or at least knocked out of that “I know this song” approach with recordings like this.

Filip, I’m deeply indebted to you.  How you and your country are coping with over two million refugees now within your borders I cannot imagine.

Articles by Filip Łobodziński on this site

T.Love, top Polish rock band, paying tribute to Bob Dylan

The consequences of sequences in Bob Dylan’s writing of song

Studious Dylan in the Studio

Memories of the first ever Polish concert Bob Dylan gave in 1994.

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