Finding my 'Dylan song' - I Shall be Released

Bob Dylan. When I think about his songs, I think about words. Lots of words. Endless words. Verse after verse. Songs that seem impossible to perform unless there's a cheat sheet of lyrics sitting at your feet. I have attempted to learn some of his tunes, and failed, due to their wordiness (was it a black dog or a white man who was wounded in love? Six crooked highways and how many misty mountains?). I have contemplated cutting out a few verses of some of my favourite Dylan songs, in the hope I'll be able to cover them, but it just doesn't seem right to chop Bob's poetry.

Surely all good folk singers should have at least one Bob Dylan song that they cover. But what would be my 'Dylan song'?

I first discovered this song back in 2001, when I was living in Bangkok. The guys in my band decided, one humid afternoon, that we should take a break from rehearsing and watch a movie. They put on The Last Waltz and I was utterly blown away by the movie, the music, and one song in particular - I Shall be Released.

It felt so different to any of the other Bob Dylan songs that I'd heard. For starters, it was learnable! But it also had soul. It dug deeper than the rest. It planted itself in my heart. I began performing it with my band. I later discovered that I was not the only singer to fall in love with the song. Some of the artists who have covered it include Nina Simone, Jeff Buckley, Joe Cocker, Joan Baez ... even Elvis Presley! 

When I was asked to contribute a track to the Festival Folk Sing Bob Dylan CD, I knew exactly which song I wanted to do. I put my name down for I Shall be Released and then, in the weeks leading up to the recording session, began freaking out about whether I was capable of it. It's a big song. I tried to learn some other Bob songs. I went on the net, looking for chords and lyrics, but nothing felt right. I kept coming back to I Shall be Released.

This song has been swirling around inside my soul for the past ten years. It carries with it happy memories of my time in the band in Thailand ... of releasing myself from my old life ... of creating for myself a new life ... of finding my voice ... of finding my people ... of finding my 'Dylan song'.

The album will be available through in mid April.


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