Dylan Bash Celebrates 20 Years of Bobness (With their 18th Show)

Travis Bigwood, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, Ijams Nature Park, Knoxville, June 2024
Matt Morelock and Friends, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, Ijams Nature Park, Knoxville, June 2024

If not for the global pandemic, this would have been the twentieth annual Bob Dylan Birthday Bash. 2020 and 2021 yielded to the nasty virus and this became the twentieth anniversary, but the eighteenth rendition of the party. Thrown in Dylan’s honor and organized every year by local musician Steve Horton, Steve and Bob both happen to claim May 24th as their date of birth. Dylan turned 83 a couple of weeks ago while Steve is a much, much younger man. Each artist presents a small set of Dylan songs with an effort made to avoid too much repetition.

A friend at the show was telling me the difference she sees in Knoxville now and a ways back and that was that multiple events happen every night now and you have to choose. She’s right, of course. Some of the crowd came and, after staying a while, left to hear the Mavericks at the Bijou, while a large crowd gathered on Market Square for the Scruffy City Jazz Festival. You have to pick and sometimes the choices are tough.

This year’s event benefitted WUTK and Ijams, both of which I suspect the crowd gathered here value and are happy to help. The setting is pitch perfect for an evening of great music and the crickets, tree frogs, and lightening bugs joined in the fun. We enjoyed a few brief sprinkles, but perennial emcee (along with David Dwyer) and local magic man Steve Dupree made certain it would not grow worse, assuring us he had it under control. Apparently he did.

Jeanine Fuller with Lila Satterfield, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, Ijams Nature Park, Knoxville, June 2024

Enjoying old friends and making new ones was probably the best part of the event. Lots of good people came out and I learned that one couple met at the Dylan Bash a couple of years ago before deciding to tie the knot. I mean, if the starting point is they like Bob Dylan music, it’s probably going to flow well from there.

The event is probably geared more towards the hard-core fans in that you’ll not hear a lot of greatest hits, though you’ll hear some more widely familiar tunes. Part of the delight is seeing how quickly you can “name that tune.” When someone pulls out an obscurity, this crowd tends to like that even more. While the songs tilted toward Dylan’s 1960s catalog (23 songs by my count), there were plenty from the 70s (9) and a smattering of more recent material (80s – 2, 90s -1, 00s -1).

Matt Morelock and Friends (nice to see Ferd in town!) opened with a six song set and were at their best when Matt picked the kind of quirky songs that fit his general mischievousness. High lights included his version of “Man Gave Names to All the Animals” (accompanied by Jeanine Fuller) and “Apple Suckling Tree.” Matt also slipped in a curveball for those of us playing “name that tune,” with “Belshazzar,” which is actually a Johnny Cash song, though Bob recorded it in 1967, not releasing it until the 2000’s.

Matt’s Set List:

  • Man Gave Names to All the Animals
  • It’s All Over Now Baby Blue
  • Apple Suckling Tree
  • Pretty Peggio
  • Masters of War
  • Belshazzar

Jeanine Fuller, more known for her R&B music pointed out from the beginning of her set that she felt very comfortable with the Bob Dylan catalog as she feels he often expresses her vision of the world. Accompanied by Lila Satterfield on guitar, she offered up a set of better known songs, all beautifully delivered. It’s hard to single out anyone, but her version of “To Make You Feel My Love” would shine in any context.

Jeanine’s Set List:

  • Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
  • Blowin’ in the Wind
  • To Make You Feel My Love
  • Like a Rolling Stone
  • Forever Young
Evan Carawan, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, Ijams Nature Park, Knoxville, June 2024

Evan Carawan brought his hammer dulcimer and a lot of history to the stage. His parents, Guy and Candy Carawan performed the event for years before Guy’s passing. Candy watched from beneath a nearby tree as Evan carried on the family tradition. As Evan pointed out during his set, his father spent time in Greenwich Village at the same time as Bob, soaking up songs he would later bring to the Highlander Center. I most enjoyed Evan’s rendition of “Billy,” a song from the Pat Garrett soundtrack that I love a lot. He also included a curveball with “Well, Well, Well,” a song co-written by Bob Dylan and Danny O’Keffe and never recorded by Bob.

Evan’s Set List:

  • Billy
  • Baby, Let Me Follow You Down
  • Well, Well, Well
Ashton Williams, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, Ijams Nature Park, Knoxville, June 2024

Ashton Brown Williams, who plays around town a bit and will soon play Preservation Pub and Barley’s, began the youth movement part of the night. I love hearing singers who’s grandparents would be more likely Bob Dylan fans offering their respect. It gives me hope for the future of Bob’s work. His set list also featured more familiar works, though “Spanish Harlem Incident” kept me guessing for a few minutes. His rendition of “Just Like a Woman” bore a lot of resemblance to the Richie Haven’s version adn his “Watchtower” had Dave Matthew’s fingerprints all over it. Ashton has real talent, a great voice, and a unique style that bears watching.

Ashton’s Set List:

  • One Too Many Mornings
  • Spanish Harlem Incident
  • Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You
  • The Man in Me
  • Just Like a Woman
  • All Along the Watchtower
Yun’s, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, Ijams Nature Park, Knoxville, June 2024

Steve Horton and pals, Yun’s, performed their annual slot. Dylan veterans all, they examined some of the lesser known songs, particularly, I thought, shining on “Farewell Angelina.” It’s a Dylan composition, but most well known in Joan Baez recording. An outtake is all we have of Dylan’s attempt at his own song.

Yun’s Set List:

  • Quit Your Lowdown Ways
  • Farewell Angelina
  • Peggy Day
  • Buckets of Rain

Will Horton (Steve’s son and previous front man for the Black Cadillacs) resumed the youth movement started by Ashton and to great effect. His set absolutely sparkled and reminded me how great a voice he owns. While I loved seeing him fronting an all-out rock band, his best spot may be working with reflective, quieter material. He started with a well-known song, but dipped into two obscure pieces to end his set, all of them were pitch perfect and beautifully executed. Will says he’s been writing more in the last year and may perform again. He lives in Nashville now, but here’s hoping we can here him again in Knoxville.

Will Horton, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, Ijams Nature Park, Knoxville, June 2024

Will’s Set List:

  • Simple Twist of Fate
  • Black Crow Blues
  • Goin’ to Acapulco

The best of the night’s sets were back-to-back, with Travis Bigwood’s set following Will’s. Travis is no stranger to the Dylan repertoire and I’ve included a video he made several years ago at St. John’s Cathedral downtown of “Oh Sister.” Travis shared that he was out west recently for a two-week production featuring the music of Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, and Bob Dylan. You can guess which artist was played by Travis. Travis is one of the most talented younger players on the scene in our city and I’m a big fan.

Travis Bigwood, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, Ijams Nature Park, Knoxville, June 2024

 

Travis’ Set List:

  • Don’t Think Twice
  • Oh Sister
  • Mama, You’ve Been on My Mind
  • Like a Rolling Stone
Itchy and Friends, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, Ijams Nature Park, Knoxville, June 2024

Itchy and Friends closed the show and we’re joined at the end by a couple of Hortons for a finale of “My Back Pages.” The set rocked more than any others of the night, a good way to end the event. Kudos to the band for including the most recent song of the night with “Things Have Changed” from 2000 and a Traveling Wilburys song that few but Dylan fans would know. Unfortunately, the lead vocalist got off track with lyrics in the first song and never quite found his way back. The concluding number harkened back to the version at the end of the 30th Anniversary Concert (1992) with Eric Clapton, Neil Young, George Harrison, and others. I’ve included it for fun.

Itchy Set List:

  • Don’t Think Twice
  • Tombstone Blues
  • Things Have Changed
  • My Baby
  • My Back Pages

Ed. Note: We may let a few days slide over the next couple of weeks. Heather and I have worked hard and missed very few days over recent months and it’s time for us to get a little rest and travel a bit. We’ll keep it flowing, but with small breaks likely dropped in along the way.