The first time I ever heard Jakob Dylan, I went to cover an extremely intimate and tasty kosher jam session at Los Angeles's famed Canter's Deli -- arguably the safest place to order pastrami after midnight this side of the Rio Grande.
Jakob and members of his then young band The Wallflowers were playing one of their casual gigs inside Canter's tiny old school bar called The Kibbutz Room. I caught the tail end of what had become a very cool little local scene and wrote it up for Rolling Stone. "Could this be the Last Schmaltz," I wondered in the magazine with a certain Semitic flair, I like to think. Sure, by writing about it in the national press I no doubt hastened the end of this scene, but that's hardly an original sin.
The Wallflowers would go on to record a series of worthwhile albums and even enjoy a number of hits. These were hits that the Wallflowers got the old fashioned way -- they actually earned them. Unlike a long line of second-generation singer-songwriters, Jakob was -- and is -- extremely gifted singer-songwriter in his own right. If anything, that powerful last name of his has caused the Wallflowers' music to be perennially marked on some crazy curve that could be lived up to by literally nobody else. Let it be said here that for my money, this kid would have been well worth hearing even if his name was Smith or, say, Zimmerman.
Through the good, the bad and the ugly, Jakob Dylan has pushed forward, writing and singing his songs with a gifted band of great players. He has done so during a particularly brutal time in the music business -- or what the hell's left of it now. Now Jakob's recorded his very first solo album called Seeing Things, a stripped down, largely acoustic affair produced by Rick Rubin that comes out this summer. I got an advance copy a few weeks back, but somehow I'm ashamed to say I hadn't found the time to focus on it yet.
Then in the middle of the night last night, I woke up and put on my Ipod on Shuffle with the volume down low so as not to wake the wife. The first number that came up was a track from Jakob's upcoming album, one called "Everybody Pays As They Go." The track is really just that familiar voice, an acoustic guitar, a subtle, female backing vocal, and a powerfully simple and plainspoken statement about shattered dreams and innocence lost. It's an uplifting and heartbreaking reminder that whoever you are, we all stand on common ground that can give way at any moment. For better or worse, everybody does pay some price as they go. Any way you add it up, Jakob Dylan has more than paid for the right to be heard and valued on his own terms.
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