During the summer of 1967, up in Woodstock, New York, Bob Dylan wrote a batch of song lyrics that he didn’t set music to and didn’t record.
Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes is an album of those songs produced by T Bone Burnett due out November 10, 2014. Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford are the artists that came together to record the songs.
Today, one of those songs, “Spanish Mary,” was released and I was able to get a copy of Bob Dylan’s notebook page, on which he wrote the lyrics to the song.
For this one, Rhiannon Giddens wrote the music and her performance on the recording is very powerful.
She stays true to the lyrics as Dylan wrote them.
In examining Dylan’s notebook page, there are a couple of lines he crossed out.
In the second verse, the second line, “Upon their ship quite scary” was crossed out and replaced by “no longer could they tarry.”
Dylan crossed out the beginning of the third line, “it was to see them,” leaving only the end of that line, “Swoon and Swerve.”
Off to the side Dylan tried out some alternatives, writing “Some sing like,” and then right under it, “Song sing like a canary.”
In the third verse, “In Kingsport town was changed to “In Kingston Town,” and minor changes in the line that follows were made.
Minor – one or two word – changes were made in the third, fourth and fifth verses.
Check out the video:
In a press release, Giddens, who wrote the music for the song and sings the lead vocal, says of the track:
“Out of all the lyrics I looked through for the New Basement Tapes project, the one for ‘Spanish Mary’ attracted me first – here was a ballad, and I know ballads! It’s also set in the Caribbean, so I felt the deep African sound of the minstrel style banjo (circa 1856) was appropriate. It was an absolute thrill to get to set music to Dylan’s lyrics, what an opportunity! This project is marked with utter generosity from everyone involved.”
— A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog post —