A Dylan cover a Day: Senor


By Tony Attwood

Technical note: this article was first published on 1 June 2023, but for reasons totally beyond my grasp, did not appear on the indexes; hence its republication on 2 June.

Somehow “Senor” has never been one of the Dylan compositions that has particularly grabbed me – but it obviously appealed to Bob having been performed 265 times between 1978 and 2011.

And it appeals to those who like to cover Bob’s work, and while many do take the song and simply add an accompaniment in their own preferred style, a few have explored where else the song might lead.

I’m really taken by the first example today – the Bob Porter Project.   The guys manage to pack all the regret that is expressed in the lyrics, into the music, not least by varying the timing of the lyrics slightly, to add to that feeling.    I love this version – and even if it doesn’t appeal to you, please do hold on to the short instrumental break.  These guys know when not to play as much as how to play.   They are described as “An Americana band from Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK …a fine blend of mellow Alt Country and gritty.”  I last saw them play in Northampton (I think – it was a while back) with my pal Pat and the gang.  A great evening out.

Diva de Lai are described as Bob Dylan at the Opera, although to be clear the accompaniment is straight rock; it is the vocals that are operatic.   It’s an interesting approach in my opinion, but having heard a couple of verses, I was not sure I was wanting to go much further.

Dierks Bentley on the other hand is a country singer, and he gives us a country version exactly as Diva de Lai offer an operatic version; which is to say “This is our style and we’ere seeing it through to the end, no matter what.”   It’s inevitably much lighter with the banjo, violin and close harmonies.  I’m not a country fan any more than an opera buff, but I did enjoy this.  I could almost believe this is how was originally intended to be performed.

Willie Nelson however took the song as one of sadness and depression and then just in case this were not enough, took it into the double extra negative side of those emotions.   Having heard the upbeat versions, I am not sure I really want this, although the brass accompaniment works rather well.

Richard Shindell

I must admit that by the time I got to number five on the list I think I had had enough Senors.  It almost seems as if the artists too often get to the song thinking “ok this is all about pleading, so I have to fill my vocals with pleading.”  And then the producer asks them to add some sadness.

Yes that is true in the lyrics, but sometimes it is enough to have that emotional message in the lyrics – putting it in the music as well can, on occasion, be overkill.

Which is a shame for this recording because there are some fine moments in the performance… but then with the instrumental break I am just left thinking someone involved in the recording was just trying to go too far to make this sound different.

In the end I felt the need to go back and play the Dierks Bentley version again, just to make sure I didn’t spend the rest of the day full of regret at something or other that happened sometime or other, to someone else.

Perhaps that is the problem.  Maybe it is a song to be listened to at night, not at 9.30am.  Perhaps it should come with a warning to that effect on the label.  Except I suspect the Bentley version will work any time of day you want it.

One comment

  1. That to the above anaylist and some others, Dylan’s songs like Sad-Eyed and Senor are best when presented uptempoed to a Blue Grass level on the ridge is completely beyond comprehension, a misguided endeavour that separates the sorrowful song lyrics with imposed playful music.

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