Armchair and real-deal music critics alike will argue forever when it comes to crowning any musician “the best.”
For songwriters, the winning argument often is whoever backs Bob Dylan. The indie world may and should look to Alex Chilton. Townes Van Zant may sit at the top of the list for lovers of Texas folk, but Dylan sits head and shoulders above them all when it comes to the songwriting canon. Hell, he is the canon.
Never before has a songwriter used so many words and phrases to capture every human emotion; a poet with a dump truck full of lingo that verbally expresses love, anger or gives the middle finger a million different ways.
Five local musicians will honor Dylan tonight in Pagosa Springs and Saturday at the Henry Strater Theatre with two sets of music. Eli Carpenter from Big’Ns, Erik Nordstrom from the Lawn Chair Kings and Farmington Hill, Robin Davis from Waiting on Trial, Pat Dressen from Jack Ten High and bass player David Richter will play a full set of Dylan’s music as a band, preceded by all five musicians playing individual solo sets. The full band configuration will be Carpenter on acoustic guitar and harmonica, Nordstrom on a Fender Telecaster, Davis on mandolin, Richter on bass and Dressen on drums.
Dylan recently hit some big milestones. He turned 70 in 2011, and his self-titled debut album was released 50 years ago. But the idea for this show really is Carpenter’s expression of his appreciation.
“Dylan’s always been important to me,” Carpenter said last week from Pagosa Springs. “He’s a great influence. I feel like he’s unmatched in his delivery in songs and his emotion and the thoughts he puts out there with words.”
Carpenter began organizing this show last fall, with ideas to make this event something more than the same tunes heard at a night of Dylan karaoke or on an open-mic stage.
“I always thought it would be cool to do a tribute,” he said. “I wondered how I could do this and make it a different, unique experience instead of having 20 different people do Dylan song after Dylan song after Dylan song.”
He reached out to his musician buddies to form the custom band. Common traits are that all the members have done time leading or playing in other rock bands, they all can individually play solo sets and they are all multi-instrumentalists. Of course, they all had to claim songs for their individual solo sets: Those will be three or four songs each and another 14 that the band will play leaves anywhere from four to five thousand Dylan songs left unplayed for this night of music.
Carpenter anticipates a diverse night of Dylan performed by some of the best musicians in the area.
“There’s going to be different styles in the second set,” he said. “I think the instruments represented will produce a good sound, people will be stoked and it’s going to be a heck of a lot of fun and a good night of music.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.