Dylan Begins Work On New Album

Dylan rehearses new material at the Bardavon

By Sandy Tomcho
Times Herald-Record

What happens when one of the greatest living songwriters walks through the door? Chris Silva, executive director of the Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie, has always been a Bob Dylan fan.

Guess who just spent four days rehearsing his new album at, of all places, the Bardavon? We'll let Silva tell the story:

I have been after Dylan since the day I walked in here 12 years ago. We almost had him back in '94. But last month, I got an e-mail from his agent, the second time this has happened in six months.

It said, "Artist looking for rehearsal space." No name. And then he finally said, "Yeah, it's Dylan. You got the dates or what?" Around the 18th or the 19th it got hot and heavy and on the 23rd it was confirmed for the 31st. I came in at 8 a.m. to get my job done so I could go watch him.

It was a rehearsal with material for a new album he was gonna go into the studio with the next week. He was playing with all kinds of different things, from old blues to kick-ass rock 'n' roll to Hawaiian-tinged music to Rudy Vallee.

He had a slide guitar player in there and a fiddle player and his keyboard, plus he had a pedal steel. Tony Garnier (with Dylan since 1989) plays bass, but the other guys had mandolins. First-rate musicians.

Dylan was all business. He would show up, walk to the keyboard, work for four or five hours straight. He was very low-key, in jeans, you wouldn't have even looked at him twice in the street, which I'm sure is on purpose, so he can sort of disappear. He was a working musician and he came to work.

There was a lot of conversation back and forth about "Let's try this key. Let's try it faster. Let's try it slower. Hey, whaddya think about that lick? Whaddya think about that lick? Let's turn it around here. Let's turn it around there." He was calling all the shots and he was counting off every song.

He's in the studio now and he's recording in New York. Whatever I was hearing for four days, it could just be turned on its head. Who knows how it's gonna end up? It was constant experimentation and that's what was so fascinating about it is that here's this guy that's been doin' it for so long and he's just an experimenter. He's not like, "I got it. I know exactly what it is." He's like, "Let's experiment. Let's find it." He never took a break.

I was in the wings. Every day I waited for him, and when he was done, he just left the building. At the end of the last day, he walked right over to me, and I froze. He thanked me profusely for the space and how much he liked it and how he'd like to come back. I didn't stammer, but I thanked him back and said, "Anytime." I just couldn't get my hand out to shake his. I was too stunned. I was like, "Maybe he won't take my hand," ya know, all these stupid thoughts.

I've met a lot of stars. I've had Al Pacino here and I really enjoyed Al and he was very nice and friendly and everything was cool, but this was a whole different thing. It's just that Dylan thing, that mystique. It was a thrill.


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