Dylan’s Red River Shore

From Tell Tale Signs:

Red River Shore

Some of us turn off the lights and we laugh
In the moonlight shooting by
Some of us scare ourselves to death in the dark
To be where the angels fly
Pretty maids all in a row lined up
Outside my cabin door
I never wanted any of ’em wantin’ me
‘Cept the girl from the Red River shore

Well I sat by her side and for a while I tried
To make that girl my wife
She gave me her best advice and she said
Go home and lead a quiet life
Well I been to the East and I been to the West
And I been out where the black winds roar
Somehow though I never did get that far
With the girl from the Red River shore

Well I knew when I first laid eyes on her
I could never be free
One look at her and I knew right away
She should always be with me
Well the dream dried up a long time ago
Don’t know where it is anymore
True to life, true to me
Was the girl from the Red River shore

Well I’m wearing the cloak of misery
And I’ve tasted jilted love
And the frozen smile upon my face
Fits me like a glove
But I can’t escape from the memory
Of the one that I’ll always adore
All those nights when I lay in the arms
Of the girl from the Red River shore

Well we’re livin’ in the shadows of a fading past
Trapped in the fires of time
I’ve tried not to ever hurt anybody
And to stay out of the life of crime
And when it’s all been said and done
I never did know the score
One more day is another day away
From the girl from the Red River shore

Well I’m a stranger here in a strange land
But I know this is where I belong
I ramble and gamble but the one I love
And the hills will give me a song
Though nothing looks familiar to me
I know I’ve stayed here before
Once a thousand nights ago
With the girl from the Red River shore

Well I went back to see about her once
Went back to straighten it out
Everybody that I talked to that seen us there
Said they didn’t know who I was talking about
Well the sun went down on me a long time ago
I’ve had to go back from the door
I wish I could have spent every hour of my life
With the girl from the Red River shore

Now I heard of a guy who lived a long time ago
A man full of sorrow and strife
That if someone around him died and was dead
He knew how to bring him on back to life
Well I don’t know what kind of language he used
Or if they do that kind of thing anymore
Sometimes I think nobody ever saw me here at all
‘Cept the girl from the Red River shore

This, along with the rest of the album are streamed online this week at NPR’s Exclusive Preview: Bob Dylan’s ‘Tell Tale Signs’

In the LA Times, Robert Hilburn writes:

….When Dylan set aside his songwriting in the early 1990s to record two albums of vintage folk, country and blues tunes, many fans thought his long, remarkable career was nearing an end. As we have since learned, Dylan was just returning in those albums to musical traditions that felt more honest to him.

After reconnecting with those rural, pre-rock styles, a rejuvenated Dylan surprised the doubters with a brilliant series of works that began in 1997 with the deeply introspective, Grammy-winning “Time Out of Mind” and continued with the more playful and jubilant “Love and Theft” in 2001 and the wry, majestic “Modern Times” in 2006.

Listening to the rare and unreleased material from the last two decades in “Tell Tale Signs,” we can hear Dylan reaching for and regaining the spark. Whether he’s simply interpreting traditional numbers or writing new songs, he brings such passion and intimacy to his vocals and arrangements that the line between singer and writer is blurred….

In the various songs here, Dylan still deals with themes of struggle and faith, despair and hope, but his singing and the musical textures are tied to the vintage sounds that thrilled him as a youngster in Minnesota before he began his own musical journey.

On one hand, the music here could exist even if rock ‘n’ roll never happened, but it’s difficult to think of rock ‘n’ roll without the passion and attitude of these tunes….

And on Red River Shore, Hilburn writes:

The opening line suggests the song’s epic reach: “Some of us turn off the lights and we live / In the moonlight shooting by / Some of us scare ourselves to death in the dark / To be where the angels fly.”

The tension and drama of the tale of longing and loss don’t let up until the final verse, in which we learn that the woman of the narrator’s dreams has slipped from his life. The loss is so deep that the narrator tries to dust off his faith. He tells of hearing about a God who could bring the dead back to life, and he ends up wondering if “they do that kind of thing anymore.”

There’s an interesting little article on Red River Shore over at Right Wing Bob:

Now, am I saying that Red River Shore is “Bob Dylan’s song about the Holy Spirit”? Not a chance. The heartbreak, the longing, the love and the mystery that is Red River Shore cannot and should not be labeled and filed away so neatly. And we know that the writer of Shelter from the Storm cannot have been consciously and deliberately writing about a Christian concept like the Holy Spirit. I’d also tend to believe that in his greatest songs, Bob Dylan is not deliberately writing about anything at all. When things are happening at that level, the song is always in some way expressing itself. I believe that he’s made much this point himself in interviews over the years.

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