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Published: 2015/06/24
by Larson Sutton

_Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued_

Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued plays as much to the arc of its characters- in this case, the musicians assembled to bring to life lyrics Bob Dylan had written in 1967, but never developed into songs- as it does to the documentation of the recording process that resulted in the 2014 album Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes. Directed by Sam Jones, the DVD has among its central cast the fatherly T Bone Burnett calmly and judiciously overseeing the Capitol Records session, Elvis Costello as the wise and aging master, Jim James of My Morning Jacket as the ambitious upstart, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes as the humble, self-effacing newcomer, and the pairing of Marcus Mumford as the struggling, but capable mentor to Rhiannon Giddens’ self-doubting fish out of water. It works in the portrayal of the individual and group dynamics that foster the creation of songs worthy of a Dylan co-writing credit, but does feel a bit convenient to fulfill the film’s need for a narrative. It’s more likely that these participants each had significant moments of creative hesitation given the keys to such a lyrical kingdom, but it’s left instead to mostly Giddens and Mumford to exemplify that emotion, while Costello and James are shown in the more confident, assured light. In the end, though, it’s the title track helmed by Giddens, with a guiding hand from Mumford, that is a scene (and album) stealer, and wraps up the story quite triumphantly. Jones can be criticized for the unnecessary choice of affected, purposefully grainy “footage” of reenactments of Dylan and The Band’s original basement days at Big Pink, as they often distract in unintended ways, and given the voiceovers from the songwriter and his mates themselves, would have better served with photos and clips from the period rather than too-obvious stand-ins. It’s not enough of a minus to defeat Lost Songs as a whole, but prevents it from being an unblemished one.

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