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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Last day of May - and here in England it is shockingly cold. Day after day the wind blows and the sun is a fitful visitor. Sarah and I went to Kirby Lonsdale in Cumbria last Friday night: an unexpectedly appealing small town, full of cobbled alleyways glimpsed from the streets, ancientness everywhere, and the people who have taken over the Sun Inn have revamped it so that while it remains a good pub, buzzy and friendly, it has also become a terrific restaurant, and very reasonably priced. We stayed there instead of in Sedbergh, where we had a function to attend next morning: a town with no decent pub or place to eat whatever. Weird how some places are just hopeless at hospitality and life and others, no bigger, do it well. It's the same in rural Georgia (where I've been researching in the footsteps of Blind Willie McTell, who was born near the small town of Thomson). Some little places nestled in the rolling hills have a downtown that has revived and has evening life; other places that look the same size on the map have rolled over and died, leaving nothing except out on their strip-city fringes, where the fast-food chains and dull obesity rule. The weather is better in Georgia than Cumbria though.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bob Dylan's 65th birthday tomorrow... and just over 40 years since he appeared at the Liverpool Odeon (my first live Dylan experience). Who could have imagined that four decades later, he'd still be functioning. A new album due out in August... meanwhile it's just three weeks and a day till the US publication date for The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. Should be on sale before that. Exciting advance order numbers on Amazon - but please support your local bookshop if you can.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

update on upcoming live appearances

2-4pm, Wed Jun 28: book signing: Nunnington Hall, Nunnington UK Nunnington Hall, nr. Helmsley
North Yorkshire
admin: Simon Lee, National Trust, 01439-748283

eve, Wed Aug 30: talk/one-man show: Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland OH One Key Plaza
751 Erieside Ave
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
admin: c/o Ben Sampson, 001-212-953-5858 x 108

6.30pm, Tues Sept 05: talk/one-man show: The New School, NY NY
66 West 12th Street (between 5th & 6th Ave), Room 519
admin: c/o Ben Sampson, 001-212-953-5858 x 108

7pm, Fri Sept 08: talk/one-man show: Booksmith bookstore, San Francisco CA
1644 Haight Street
San Francisco
California 94117
admin: c/o Ben Sampson, 001-212-953-5858 x 108

More to follow. And to anyone who books events at arts theatres and might be interested: please contact Ben Sampson (US, details above) or Sarah Worsfold (UK, tel +44 207 922 0909) for more detail.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

OCCASIONAL PHOTOS No.3: A blind man's writing paper

Another illustration on the longlist for The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia but dropped at the last minute, through lack of space.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Just back home from "Bringing It All Back Home", the Bob Dylan Congress in Frankfurt, at which other speakers included Richard Klein, Stephen Scobie and Peter Kemper, but didn't include, unfortunately, Betsy Bowden, who was going to speak on "The album as Aesthetic Unit: Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra" - which, if it resembled an earlier talk given in the rather different setting of Flagstaff, Arizona in 1998, would have looked in particular at Sinatra’s 1957 album Come Dance With Me and Dylan’s album of 40 years later, Time Out Of Mind. (These details are included in the entry on Ms Bowden in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia.)

Good to see again at Frankfurt, though, various Austrian Bob Dylan Convention Castle Plankenstein regulars. Those conventions are no more: instead of an annual coming together for hearing new bootlegs, exchanging news, catching up, watching previously unseen or favourite footage, now everyone sits at home at their computer, with instant access to last night's setlist and able to download every new morsel of Dylan rarity within 24 hours of its emergence. Quicker gratification, greater isolation.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

seemly demurral better late than never?

Sarah, my partner in life, says my trumpeting of the Nashville City Paper quote might have come across as unseemly boasting. I hoped it didn't, naturally - I was just excited by it - but I should have had the grace to demur at the claim at the start of yesterday's post quote. So - a bit belatedly, but very willingly - I'd like to say that there are many, many people who know more about the blues than I do, and among them are any number of other English writers, including Alan Balfour, Bruce Bastin, John Cowley, Paul Oliver, Tony Russell, Howard Rye Neil Slaven and Chris Smith.

Friday, May 05, 2006

a tremendous preview review from Nashville...

Today's Nashville City Paper has a wonderful write-up on the book, just based on the sampler sent out by the publisher a while back. This is what he's written:
"English critic and music historian Michael Gray knows as much as any living being about the blues and rock ‘n’ roll, particularly every blues strain before World War II. But he’s also perhaps the world’s foremost Bob Dylan authority, as witnessed in the massive Song and Dance Man III: The Art of Bob Dylan, which is now in its fifth reprint since its initial release in 2000.

Gray’s next project is The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (Continuum), which won’t be available until June 15. The publishers forwarded me an advance sampler, and based solely on what’s in this preview, The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia will be a mandatory buy. Gray’s entries on Ray Charles and Sam Cooke alone make you want to rush out and grab this right away, regardless of price.

The final edition will have more than 850 entries and 26 pages of illustrations in its 784 pages, and the first version is also going to include a CD-Rom. Unfortunately, Continuum books aren’t always easy to find (at least here in Nashville), but the amount of information and the quality of the writing and research contained in this preview indicates that it will be more than worth the difficulty involved in finding it."


Meanwhile the entry on Fats Domino is now published on the 33 1/3 series blog, which can be reached from the Links section on this page.

For me, this is all getting exciting . . . only about six weeks to US publication date (June 15). In the UK it may be a couple of weeks later: I'm waiting to hear.