Dylan Cover Album: Rich Lerner and The Groove: A Review

Rich Lerner’s new CD, Cover Down, features terrific cover versions of 11 Dylan tunes. It’s an eclectic collection, featuring familiar pieces like Forever Young and Simple Twist of Fate, and underappreciated gems like Covenant Woman.

The band is terrific. Think MTV Unplugged. Gorgeously recorded acoustic instruments. Guitars are crisp and clean. Bassist Dave Talley really shines throughout, his liquid and slippery basslines opening up songs in ways Brother Bob probably never dreamed. (Talley’s work on the CD is topnotch.)

The greatest strength of the album might be how Lerner and the backing band (The Groove) have re-imagined these tunes. The arrangements are familiar, but not too familiar. In fact when they stretch the tunes furthest is when they’re most successful, like in their version of Changing of the Guard. (Think Tom Waits meets the Chieftains.)

There are neat touches throughout, Sammy Smith’s tender work in Simple Twist of Fate, and piano flourishes by Jason Flegel in Every Grain of Sand. Drummer Sam Seawell patters out a neat double-time feel on Love Minus Zero, working against the progression of the guitars; yet, it fits!

I imagine Bob would be pleased with these results. Lerner’s phrasing, like his arranging, reinvent the songs, shining light on the tunes in completely different ways.

The CD can be ordered at Lerner’s website, For a Dylan fan, this CD is a revelation. To hear Bob’s work stripped apart and then re-invigorated is always thrilling.

The artwork and design are first rate. Lerner writes to us on the back of the CD: “A good cover version…has to walk a thin line, expanding the dimensions of the song witout betraying the essence.” I’d say he’s done that and more.