Armed with a batch of new tunes (most co-written with Grateful Dead scribe Robert Hunter) and aided by the accordion work of Los Lobos frontman David Hidalgo, Bob Dylan and his touring "cowboy band" have fashioned another gem — a smoldering mix of Tex-Mex border music and 1950s Chicago blues. "Well, my ship is in the harbor/And the sails are spread," Dylan growls on Together Through Life's opener, "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'." It sets the tone for a record beset with the resignation that's marked Dylan's work over the past decade. But his humor remains too, sparked by Hidalgo's bright border swing and capped on more than one occasion by the grizzled bard's mischievous cackle. Dylan's singing shines on the heartsick "Life Is Hard" and the languid and wistful "This Dream of You," which finds the singer propped in the corner of "nowhere café," his dust-ravaged voice swept to the sky on beer-soaked accordion winds. "Shadows dance upon the wall," he sings. "Shadows that seem to know it all." It's a darkness that has always drawn the veteran songwriter. — Matt Marshall
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