by Tony Attwood
The trouble with the 12 bar blues is that there are so many millions of them around it is hard to do much that is new – although of course the great musicians most certainly still achieve novelty and interest within this most restrictive of musical forms.
Bob Dylan did indeed create an interesting piece with “New Pony”, but it is such a distinctive piece within the 12 bar format (even with the variant that Dylan introduces by having the repeat line using the same chord as the first line, and the “how much longer” line added) that those who wish to cover the song now have a double problem: the format and Dylan’s inventiveness. The format is fixed, and Dylan’s inventiveness knows no bounds.
As a result not too many have tried to make a cover version of this song.
Jenna Silverman tells us from the off that this is going to be a pretty straight copy by giving us an introduction that is almost a complete reproduction of Dylan’s arrangement. And that turns out to be quite clever as her voice is so distinctive and seductive it is quite a contrast to the overall format, and so it turns out we need little else.
No matter that the backing singings do their part as a straight copy, the interest is built up, and when the saxophone comes in for its solo I’m still there paying full attention. And indeed it is excellent playing by the saxophonist. A great ending too.
The Dead Weather with Jack White is the cover version I particularly thought of when contemplating this little piece before actually playing any of the videos. The band seems to take on the notion that Dylan’s version is a mere gentle introduction to what could be done with a 12 bar variant, and in such a situation the percussionist just goes off and has a field day.
The trouble is I’m writing this at 9.30am on a sunday in a peaceful Northamptonshire village, after dancing last night with one of my favourite dance partners, until midnight, and I’m not really sure my environment really helps me appreciate this to its fullest extent. Mind you I have had breakfast, so that helps.
Maria McKee has a voice that takes us elsewhere, and a nice elsewhere it is. Except I wonder about the need for a female chorus with the “How much longer” with McKee’s fine vocals running the show. I wonder what it would sound like with a male chorus?
But I find the instrumental break a disappointment – surely the pianist can do more than hit the tonic chord over and over again.
However, the drop-down “voodoo” verse is a really neat idea which I’ve not heard elsewhere. Although going straight back into the full-bloodied edition immediately after is perhaps a little too obvious for such a talented group of musicians. But maybe playing it at midnight Friday/Saturday might help, rather than this calm and peaceful autumn morning.
Outside there is the faintest breeze moving the top of the poplar trees and the sun just slightly shines through the wispy clouds. In fact I really think I am playing the wrong piece of music for this day and this time of day. But that’s not their fault.
Do listen to the end – it’s a simple idea but very much worth hearing.
The Dylan Cover a Day series
- The song with numbers in the title.
- Ain’t Talkin
- All I really want to do
- Apple Suckling and Are you Ready.
- As I went out one morning
- Ballad for a Friend
- Ballad in Plain D
- Ballad of a thin man
- Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
- The ballad of Hollis Brown
- Beyond here lies nothing
- Blind Willie McTell
- Black Crow Blues (more fun than you might recall)
- An unexpected cover of “Black Diamond Bay”
- Blowin in the wind as never before
- Bob Dylan’s Dream
- You will not believe this… 115th Dream revisited
- Boots of Spanish leather
- Born in Time
- Buckets of Rain
- Can you please crawl out your window
- Can’t wait
- Changing of the Guard
- Chimes of Freedom
- Country Pie
- Crash on the Levee
- Dark Eyes
- Dear Landlord
- Desolation Row as never ever before (twice)
- Don’t fall apart on me tonight.
- Don’t think twice
- Down along the cove
- Drifter’s Escape
- Duquesne Whistle
- Farewell Angelina
- Foot of Pride and Forever Young
- Fourth Time Around
- From a Buick 6
- Gates of Eden
- Gotta Serve Somebody
- Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall.
- 42 Heart of Mine
- 43: High Water
- 44: Highway 61.5
- 45: Hurricane
- 46: I am a lonesome hobo
- 47: I believe in you
- 48: I contain multitudes
- 49: I don’t believe you.
- 50: I love you too much
- 51: I pity the poor immigrant.
- 52: I shall be released
- 53: I threw it all away
- 54: I want you
- 55: I was young when I left home
- 56: I’ll remember you
- 57: Idiot Wind and More idiot wind
- 58: If not for you, and a rant against prosody
- 59: A Dylan cover a Day: If you Gotta Go, please go and do something different
- 60: If you see her say hello
- 61: Dylan cover a day: I’ll be your baby tonight
- 62: I’m not there.
- 63: In the Summertime, Is your love and an amazing Isis
- 64: It ain’t me babe
- 65: It takes a lot to laugh
- 66: It’s all over now Baby Blue
- 67: It’s all right ma
- 68: Just Like a Woman
- 69: Knocking on Heaven’s Door
- 70: Lay down your weary tune
- 71: Lay Lady Lay
- 72: Dylan Cover a Day 72: Lenny Bruce
- 73: That brand new leopard skin pill box hat
- 74: Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
- 75: Dylan Cover a Day: License to kill
- 76: Like a Rolling Stone
- 77: Love is just a four letter word
- 78: Love Sick
- 79: Maggies Farm!
- 80: Make you feel my love; a performance that made me cry.
- 81: Mama you’ve been on my mind
- 82: Man in a long black coat.
- 83: Masters of War
- 84: Meet me in the morning
- 85: Million Miles. Listen, and marvel.
- 86: Mississippi. Listen, and marvel (again)
- 87: Most likely you go your way
- 88: Most of the time and a rhythmic thing
- 89: Motorpsycho Nitemare
- 90: Mozambique
- 91: Mr Tambourine Man
- 92: My back pages, with a real treat at the end
- 93: New Morning