Just months after making a swift recovery from a potentially fatal heart infection, Bob Dylan is preparing to release his first album of original songs since 1990's "Under the Red Sky." Slated for a late September release, "Time Out of Mind" was co-produced by Daniel Lanois, who Dylan also worked with on 1989's critically acclaimed "Oh Mercy."
Heard in unfinished form, the album sounds as atmospheric as "Oh Mercy" and even more regretful. Many of the 11 songs could be taken as contrite looks back or attempts to come to terms with unresolved feelings. On "Standing in the Doorway," Dylan sings that "I know the mercy of God must be near," and the chorus of "Tryin' to Get to Heaven" is "Tryin' to get to Heaven/Before they close the door."
But though many will undoubtedly take "Time Out of Mind" as Dylan's comment on his own mortality, the album was almost completely finished before his late-May battle with the fungal infection histoplasmosis, and several songs concern affairs of the heart. To Dylan, the music took precedence over the lyrics. "It's definitely a performance record instead of a poetic literary type of thing," the artist said in a statement issued by Columbia Records. "Some people, when it comes to me, extrapolate only the lyrics from the music. But in this case, the music itself has just as far-reaching an effect, and it was meant to be that way."
To that end, Dylan enlisted musicians including Memphis piano player Jim Dickinson, who has played with Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones; organ player Augie Myers of the Texas Tornados, and Cindy Cashdollar, who has played with Asleep at the Wheel. The album has a rich, textural sound typical of records Lanois has produced.
Dylan will return to the road in August for a tour of the East Coast and parts of the Midwest, on which he will be joined by alternative honky-tonkers BR5-49 and folk-punk Ani DiFranco. It is not known if he will be playing material from the new album.