Certain Songs #99: Bob Dylan – “Shelter From The Storm (Fort Collins, 1976)”

Album: Hard Rain.

Year: 1976.

I’m not really that big fan of either of the live albums that came from The Rolling Thunder Revue, as the arrangements and sound suffered from … well, just too much of everything.  It was interesting for Dylan to go in a completely different direction from the by-then precision of The Band, but he went so far in the other direction that most of Rolling Thunder recordings I’ve heard feel completely unfocused.

I mean, take this live version of “Shelter From The Storm” from Hard Rain: it’s filled with these terrible mid-70s phased-out guitar sounds, the electric violin fighting for space, and it’s anchored by a completely unnecessary central guitar riff which always followed by a weird tap! tap! on the snare drum.

And yet, outside of “The Royal Albert Hall” performances, this is my favorite live Dylan song. It comes down to his singing. We he sings this on Blood on the Tracks, he definitely needs the shelter, but on Hard Rain, he’s the one who sounds like the storm.

And my favorite singing of his entire career is this verse:

In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation an’ they gave me a lethal dose
I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

It comes down to “a lethal dose.” A lethal dose of salvation. It doesn’t make any linear sense, but when sings it, it feels like everything he’s done since – including the singing of that song right thing – has been affected by the lethal dose of salvation. He’ll never be the same, and neither will we. 

Check out the video below, which doesn’t have the greatest sonic quality (as it’s from an old VHS tape) and see of you spot a much-younger T-Bone Burnett in between what is otherwise mostly close-ups of Dylan singing.

“Shelter From The Storm” from Hard Rain

My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist:

Every “Certain Song” Ever

Comments are closed.