Bob Dylan has returned to the studio to work on first album in three years

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Legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan is at work on a new studio album, leading sessions at Jackson Browne’s Los Angeles studio with Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo, among others.

“It was a great experience — and different,” said Hidalgo, who has worked with Dylan on two previous releases. “Each one has been different, all completely different approaches. It’s an amazing thing, how he keeps creativity. I don’t see how he does it.”

Dylan has released 34 studio albums, but none since 2009 when he issued the holiday project Christmas in the Heart, and the critically acclaimed Together Through Life. Hidalgo appeared on both releases. Dylan’s work was more recently featured on a sweeping benefit project for Amnesty International earlier this year, a four-disc set called Chimes of Freedom which included everyone from Adele and Dierks Bentley, to Dave Matthews Band and Miley Cyrus, to Ziggy Marley and My Chemical Romance.

As yet, this new Dylan project remains untitled and no release date has been set. Hidalgo said he played both an accordion and the guitar-like tres during the free-ranging sessions. He says the project was propelled by Dylan’s open attitude about new sounds: “He’d would say, ‘Wow, what’s that?,'” said Hidalgo, who spoke with the Aspen Times about the new album. “He liked the sound. So we’d get it in there.”

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Bob Dylan. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: BOB DYLAN: In honor of Bob Dylan’s birthday today, Something Else! Reviews presents 7 for 70 — our list of top recordings from across the 70-year-old’s lengthy career. We were careful to select at least one project from each of his five decades in music, stretching between 1963 and 2009, but didn’t order them in any particular way. The list is necessarily subjective. But like all birthday presents, it’s the thought that counts.

BOB DYLAN – TOGETHER THROUGH LIFE (2009): Bob Dylan, commissioned to do some soundtrack work, kept recording with the assembled group — ultimately producing a powerfully personal result. “Together Through Life” is a revelation in its stubborn unwillingness to move into the realm of Statements. Of Big Records. Of Career-Defining Blah Blah Blah. Dylan wants to make a small, good thing — focusing inward, mostly, talking about relationships with both honesty and a ragged sense of humor — and he brilliantly succeeds. Highlights include “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'” and “My Wife’s Hometown,” both of which sound like shambling leftovers from Dylan’s late-1980s sessions in New Orleans with Daniel Lanois — complete with surprising synocations, biting guitar (courtesy of Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and fun, braying vocals.

ONE TRACK MIND: BOB DYLAN, “NOT DARK YET” (1997): For me, “Not Dark Yet” is the best thing Bob Dylan has done in ages, this perfect enigma from a guy who’s made a career of such sleights of hand. An edgy post-modern lament downshifted into quiet Civil War balladry, “Not Dark Yet,” remains a riddle — and maybe that’s the very definition of good art: It’s something that you never quite figure out. At first, when it appeared on 1997’s perhaps over-celebrated Time Out of Mind, I was thinking that this was Dylan looking back on his own life, on his many accomplishments, and seeing more to be done. Dylan, issuing his first original songs since 1990’s Under the Red Sky, had been slowed by a life-threatening illness. So, he realizes, now more than ever, that the clock is ticking. In a larger sense, he’s a guy, in keeping with the title of the Grammy award-winning album from which it came, who is out of time. Dylan is both misunderstood by a new generation, and also moving into the last third of his life.

SHOW’S I’LL NEVER FORGET: BOB DYLAN, APRIL 21, 1993: On this night, Bob Dylan once again proved he was no fan of history. And that’s why I’ve been a fan of his for so long. See, I’ve always loved the in-concert head fake. After all, I already own the albums. Alas, showgoers in the modern age want the hits, and they want them note for teeth-splinteringly boring note. My response: You could hardly blame someone for not wanting to play a 25-year-old song the same old way. (In fact, to be honest, you could hardly blame him for not wanting to play them at all.) Well, some folks around me during this performance — right up front, third row — certainly did. Too bad. If you wanted to hear “Like a Rolling Stone” simply regurgitated, Dylan’s hard-eyed message was this: Buy the record. All night, he played with structure, changing the tempo (and sometimes the key) of most every tune. I was enthralled.

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