A Dylan Cover a Day: Ring them bells in many different ways


By Tony Attwood

The great problems with doing a cover version of “Ring Them Bells” are a) the song itself is highly distinctive, and b) the use of the word “bells” invites the uninventive performer / arranger / producer to do the obvious.   So in listening to a range of cover versions I have veered away from both of those approaches and looked for versions that take us to completely new interpretations.   And thankfully quite a few artists have gone to new places and found new things to do.

As Cindy Cashdollar has worked on occasion alongside Bob Dylan she ought to know a thing or two about re-arranging, and that certainly shines through here.  The harmonies are beautiful, and the accompaniment laid back without any temptation to include a few bells, gongs or chimes.   The instrumental with which the song ends is perfection.

Muscle and Bone play with us by playing a chord sequence at the start and starting the song in exactly the place we don’t expect.  The guitar part is so simple, but fits so perfectly with the melody and the lyrics.  It just shows you really don’t need to go further and further to get a good cover of Dylan.   And perhaps because of that, when the harmonies start it feels so natural.

Perfection in simplicity.  (Incidentally, I found myself listening to lyrics in a completely new way through this version – which is always a good thing).

Jumping from one version to another of the same song is always fascinating, and doing it over and again in writing this series I have so often reached the view that amusician or producer or arranger has made changes just for the sake of it.   But that doesn’t apply here.  Just compare Natasha Bedingfield’s version with Muscle and Bone.  Two utterly different interpretations but both really worth contemplating.

After the previous version – indeed after all the previous versions, this is another jolt.

And Gordon Lightfoot has of course the right to do anything he likes with any song.  After all, if the composer of “Early Morning Rain” hasn’t earned that right, who has?  (Incidentally, Gordon Lightfoot also wrote “Rainy Day People” years after “Rainy Day Women” and I’ve often wondered why – but that’s another story).

Anyway, the starting point is so different and a different interpretation throughout.

So to the final version, and I’ve kept this to last because the opening is so odd, but also because the accompaniment is so unexpected in parts.  It just shows how much can be done with a good song.   And because I think it works – despite its complete divergence in parts from the original feeling of the song.   If you have a moment please do listen throughout.  It is worth staying with it.


  1. A different stress or concern perhaps …

    But “two utterly different interpretations” is rather hyperbolic

  2. The song started out as one in search of the holy grail of rhyme:

    Ring them bells for St Catherine
    She skinned a peel off an orange

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