Style: Roadhouse blues, vintage Americana; echoes of Muddy Waters, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, and Leadbelly
Top tracks: "Pay in Blood," "Duquesne Whistle," "Scarlet Town"
When Bob Dylan released his first album, he was only 21 years old, but that didn't stop him from singing heavy songs like "Fixin' to Die" and "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean." Fifty years later, he's still got death on his mind; Tempest is being called his darkest record yet, and, in terms of body count alone, that's a fair assessment. "Pay in Blood" is a portrait of vengeful wickedness, "Early Roman Kings" chronicles lecherous and treacherous crooks, and the title cut spends 45 verses remembering the sinking of the Titanic. That may be a few verses too many, in an album that at times feels a bit overburdened by epics, but that's a minor complaint. Dylan is like no one else, and Tempest finds him in a generous frame of mind—particularly when he closes the album with "Roll on John," an empathetic and deeply human elegy for John Lennon.1