The New Basement Tapes

December 23, 2014

I don't claim to know much about music - that's really Sally's passion - but I do love listening to the stuff and learning the meaning behind certain songs and albums. When a musical lover and guru introduced me to some new songs about a month ago I was in love. Not just because the lyrics were sweet and soulful, but because of the story behind them and the album...Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes is an album produced by T Bone Burnett featuring a collective of musicians - Elvis CostelloRhiannon GiddensTaylor GoldsmithJim James and Marcus Mumford - recording under the name The New Basement Tapes. The album consists of tracks based on recently uncovered lyrics handwritten by Bob Dylan in 1967.


After almost being killed in a motorcycle accident in July 1966, Bob Dylan sequestered himself in a small house in West Saugerties, New York to recover. During the spring of 1967 he, along with Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson (and later, Levon Helm), wrote and recorded more than a hundred songs in the basement of the house over the next several months. The “traditional covers, wry and humorous ditties, off-the cuff performances and, most important, dozens of newly-written Bob Dylan songs” were a mysterious legend to fans until the album The Lost Basement Tapes was released in 1975. Only 16 of the rumored hundred+ songs written during the 1967 period were made into recordings by Columbia Records.

Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes is a celebratory album of 20 of the other never-seen Bob Dylan lyrics from that legendary 1967 period. Nearly 50 years later, the chosen five musicians listed above worked together over two weeks to knock out the recording of the songs. Here’s how it went down: Dylan’s publisher contacted Burnett regarding the box of handwritten lyrics that had been found, dating back to Dylan’s Basement Tapes days, and asked if he had any interest in doing something with them. As soon as Burnett was assured that Dylan was on board with the project, he agreed to it. Burnett selected his band based on their talent and collaborative style, as well as their interest as “musical archaeologists”. Each member of the group was sent the collection of lyrics, and each arrived at recording session with a selection of tunes, some having set only some of the lyrics, others having set all of them. Not wishing to encourage competition, the group decided to record all the tunes, including multiple settings of the same lyrics. Of the resulting 40 tracks, 20 are included on the present album. (< info taken from here)

According to the musical man who introduced me to the tracks, Showtime did a great documentary series on the making of the album and you can watch it here! The album is available on iTunes and I highly suggest getting it. But even if you don’t get it, at least listen and watch the videos for “Kansas City” and “When I Get My Hands on You” below…I think you’ll like.


  1. I’ve been talking about this album (and the documentary) for a good month now. It’s seriously so good. The marcus mumford songs are super catchy, but really do love the entire album. the taylor goldsmith tracks are probably my favorite. Florida key probably wins as my favorite track off the album. good rec!

  2. Molly thank you so much for writing about this!! i just gifted it to my dad- he’s going to love it. happy holidays 🙂

    xx kelsey –

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