Reporting on the upcoming Bob Dylan CD, Together Through Life, the folks at Pitchfork are speculating that the cover is "sure-to-be-scrutinized." Well, no kidding. When considering any Dylan release, that's the one thing you can be certain of—it will be scrutinized. And not just the cover, also the title, lyrics, song titles, choice of musicians, liner notes, etc.
And I'm sure fans will read various meanings into that cover photo. Is it somehow tied to the new Renee Zellweger film, My Own Love Song? Dylan wrote a song for the soundtrack and doing so reportedly stoked a creative burst that resulted in the new recording. Is the photo somehow related to the film? Nope.
Is it some commentary on aging? After all, Dylan's now 67, and it's probably been awhile since he made out in the backseat of a car—although we can't be too sure of that. But that's probably not it, either.
Actually, the photo is a sly homage to Larry Brown, the Mississippi novelist who passed away in 2004.
That very same shot, taken by Bruce Davidson, also graced the cover of the paperback edition of Big Bad Love, a collection of Brown's short stories.
Dylan was a huge fan of Brown's.
My buddy Jim Dickinson (who played on Time Out of Mind) once told me that while visiting with Dylan some years ago, Dylan asked if he knew Brown. Dickinson, who was a friend of Brown's, asked why he wanted to know. "I've read every word the man's ever written," Dylan replied.
I'm not sure if Dylan ever went public with his admiration of Brown's work, but this may be it. The smart money says Larry Brown inspired the new CD cover.