City Pages Best of 2007

Good local music compilations always say something about the scene. Last year’s The Best of Smoke-Free Saturday Nights Volume 3 said there were a bunch of good, unreleased female-fronted punk bands around here.—Volume Won said local rappers, even well-known ones, had started writing about how broke they were. Last year’s Duluth Does Dylan Revisited told us to get ready for a year of Minnesota Dylanmania—but to keep a sense of humor about it, and take it as an excuse to get to know the state. Whether Dylan is our Homer or our Picasso, or neither, his vision has enough creative force to come through like a bell on these 15 tunes rendered by the diverse likes of Cloud Cult and the Retribution Gospel Choir. (The former transforms “Mr. Tambourine Man” into tender and tasteful space pop, while the latter recycles “All the Tired Horses” as PiL-style dub noise.) The less tangible connecting thread here is Duluth, of course: Dylan’s birthplace. Drive down Superior Street with this on, and you can’t help hearing something northern and smart and sad in Jerree Small’s aching “To Ramona” and Ol’ Yeller’s warm “When the Ship Comes In.” Behind these performances, there’s the faintest hope that if Dylan had grown up in Duluth instead of Hibbing, he might have stayed. In fact, he never quite left: The man himself snatched up T-shirts of the first Duluth Does Dylan compilation from a local shop.