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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Jakob Dylan became famous as the lead singer of the Wallflowers. But in recent years, Mr. Dylan - yeah, he's related to, you know, his father, the other guy -Jakob Dylan has hatched into a successful solo artist.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JAKOB DYLAN (Singer): (Singing) I roll my sleeves up, I hold back the dam. I fill these bags with sand. Every young boy, woman and every man has got to lend a hand.

SIMON: That's a song called "Lend a Hand," from his new album "Women and Country." This record reunites Jakob Dylan with producer�T-Bone Burnett, and it adds�Neko Case and Kelly Hogan to the mix as backing vocals. "Women and County" is slow, thoughtful, moody, but also optimistic - at least, I think so.

Is that true, Mr. Dylan?

Mr. DYLAN: I think it's very optimistic. I'm - you ask anybody around me - a very upbeat, positive, optimistic type of person.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: That's Neko Case laughing as if it's the funniest thing she's ever heard.

Ms. NEKO CASE (Vocalist): He is. He's funny. He's very funny.

SIMON: Well, it's good to be joined by all of you. Thanks very much, Jakob Dylan, Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, all in Studio 4A. Thanks very much for being with us.

Wanted to ask you about a lyric from the first track, "Nothing But the Whole Wide World." God wants nothing but the whole wide world for us. That's beyond optimistic.

Mr. DYLAN: Isn't it?

SIMON: Yeah, that's ecstatic.

Mr. DYLAN: Yeah, I think he wants us to have every opportunity available to achieve good things. At least, I think he wants that for me.

SIMON: How'd you guys come - how did you gifted performers - forgive me for saying guys. Not that there's anything wrong with being a guy.

Ms. CASE: No. We want to be guys.

Ms. KELLY HOGAN (Vocalist): Yeah.

SIMON: You want to be guys. OK.

Ms. HOGAN: We're guys.

SIMON: So what put you on this album?

Ms. CASE: T-Bone Burnett did. He gave us a - well, he offhandedly one day goes, you know, I really want to get you guys on this Jakob record. And we said, what?

SIMON: Now, forgive me, does anyone say Jakob who? Or that isn't necessary in the music business?

Ms. CASE: No, I was just kind of freaked out that he was asking us to do it.

Ms. HOGAN: Yeah.

Ms. CASE: Pants were peed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. HOGAN: Indeed. Guys' pants were peed.

Ms. CASE: Pants were peed. Practicing was done.

Ms. HOGAN: Yep.

Ms. CASE: And there we were.

SIMON: So did T-Bone Burnett run this by you, Mr. Dylan?

Mr. DYLAN: Yeah, of course. No, we talked about - while recording we had a lot of space for background vocals. And we knew as it developed, it definitely needed to be women. "Men and Country" made a far less appealing record title.

Ms. CASE: For you.

Mr. DYLAN: For me. Someone else can probably use that. It's available. But, yeah, T-Bone, it was his idea, knowing that they sing as partners and they sing together often. I was, of course, thrilled. I thought he was a little adventurous. I really didn't know they were going to have quite as much time, and they were very busy last year themselves.

SIMON: Could we hear a song?

Mr. DYLAN: Sure.

SIMON: I mean, I will I will explain. I ask, could we hear a song, and you're all standing there with your guitars and have been through about a 45-minute mic check. So I'd be astonished if the answer's no. But...

Mr. DYLAN: Hey, here's some equipment right here. Let's listen to this.

Ms. HOGAN: Hey, weird. Let's put on a show, gang. It's all warmed up.

Mr. DYLAN: Is that one plugged in? Let's play.

Ms. CASE: It's like Scooby-Doo.

Mr. DYLAN: (Singing) Nothing but the whole wide world to gain. Nothing, nothing. Nothing but the whole wide world to gain. Nothing, nothing. And nothing but the whole wide, whole wide world to gain.

I'm here on the blacktop, the sun in my eyes, women and country on my mind. They're bolting me out over the borderline. There's no more love lost and no more shame. There's no more digging holes for graves. Nothing to lose, rivets and chains. Got nothing but the whole wide world to gain.

Nothing but the whole wide world to gain. Nothing, nothing. Nothing but the whole wide world to gain. Nothing, nothing. And nothing but the whole wide, whole wide world to gain.

Was born in a stable and built like an ox. Down in the pastures I learned how to walk. Mama, she raised me to sing and just let 'em talk. Said no rich man's worth his weight in dust, bury him down same as they'll do us. God wants you busy, never giving up, He wants nothing but the whole wide world for us.

Nothing but the whole wide world for us. Nothing, nothing. There's nothing but the whole wide world for us. Nothing, nothing. Nothing but the whole wide, whole wide world...

SIMON: That's utterly beautiful.

Mr. DYLAN: Thank you.

SIMON: Did you write these songs - I mean, are these things you've had in the case for years, or did you write things in a spurt?

Mr. DYLAN: No, I wrote these very quickly. When I had seen T-Bone and he had a small window of time to do something together, and we've been wanting to work together for quite some time. We worked together in '95. But I had played him a song - that song, actually. And he was very excited and challenged me to - I think I had maybe three weeks or so until he had his next available window to do some work. So I thought three weeks was plenty of time to write 10, 15 songs.

SIMON: Wow.

Mr. DYLAN: Well, I've done the math. They're only three and a half minutes long, most songs. So let's say you spend twice as long working on them. That's seven minutes per song.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DYLAN: I could still get that done.

Ms. CASE: It takes me like, three years.

Mr. DYLAN: No. Well, you know, if...

Ms. CASE: How broken am I?

Mr. DYLAN: If somebody says, you're going to make a record in three years, I will take three years to write a record. So it was a good challenge for me.

SIMON: Boy, but that's interesting. I mean, this is a real deadline mentality. We know that in our business, certainly. But the deadline helped you focus.

Mr. DYLAN: I work better with a deadline, personally. If it's open-ended, I'm not sure that I'll ever get there.

SIMON: What do you - how do you write a song?

Mr. DYLAN: Well, that's totally - I wish I could tell you. I'm happy that they keep coming. And as I think - like a lot of people - I think the last one I write is the last one I get. I can't imagine that there'll be any more.

Ms. CASE: Totally.

Mr. DYLAN: So I'm always glad when more arrive.

SIMON: Now, Neko Case is one of the great songwriters.

Mr. DYLAN: She is. A round of applause right here.

Ms. CASE: Thanks, guys. I find doing dishes helps writing songs, 'cause the ideas, they just pop out. Because you're not sitting there going, I don't think there's going to be more of those. They tend to be shy ideas, but then you got to chase them down - like a Sherlock Holmes kind of guy.

Mr. DYLAN: Yeah, the idea is always elusive and shows up when it does, but then for me at least, it's a lot of work. I know a lot of songwriters say that they're channeling, and that they're like lightning bolts. That's not...

Ms. CASE: Doesn't it crack you up when they say that? That is the biggest load of crap ever.

Mr. DYLAN: They're either lying or - well, I'm going to go with A. They're lying.

Ms. CASE: Yes.

Mr. DYLAN: I'm not channeling anything, personally.

Ms. CASE: They don't want to think about it.

Mr. DYLAN: I'm working really hard.

Ms. CASE: Yeah.

SIMON: Now, look, we've talked to songwriters like that.

Ms. CASE: I know.

SIMON: Some very good ones.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CASE: That's all you ever hear. They come to me. I'm a vessel.

Mr. DYLAN: I just try not to get in the way.

Ms. CASE: Exactly.

SIMON: Well, all right. Are they lying or are they - is it a different experience for them and that's how they couch it, that's how they understand it?

Mr. DYLAN: I think that's also just another way of maybe suggesting - you know, if you don't like it, I just channeled it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DYLAN: That's also kind of a back-up plan.

SIMON: It's not my fault.

Mr. DYLAN: Yeah, I don't like it, either. Just channeling, man.

Ms. CASE: Cosmic disclaimer, nice.

SIMON: Well, I'm glad we got that cleared up then.

We're talking to Jakob Dylan about his new album, "Women andCountry."

(Soundbite of song, "Holy Rollers for Love")

Mr. DYLAN: (Singing) Down from the mountain out walking the flood. I see the future in this setting sun. Unfolded gardens uncover the earth as it was. Filled with canteens and tear gas from this last voyage of us.

There ain't no gentleman here hiding wings. The devil himself would be puzzled to give any reasons to sink his fingers in. All this voodoo and black magic doing the work that was his.

With battle songs filling their lungs, move them out down under the sun. Give them tears for cherry red blood. Stack 'em old, we cradle them young. World is crazy or maybe just holy rollers for love.

Split this ocean and set these sails. It's down to the seabed we dazzle and fail. Hereafter's bringing more funerals than fairs. And it's a book of blank maps that we're using to get us there. Now, to the hilltops my daughter, my son, The rescue's too little to cover the slums. Cross this river, deeper than it ever was. Now, there's a pause in the evening when prayers are supposed to be done.

With battle songs filling their lungs, move them out down under the sun. Give them tears for cherry red blood. Stack 'em old, we cradle them young. World is crazy or maybe just holy rollers for love.

SIMON: Boy, that's good. "Holy Rollers for Love," from Jakob Dylan's new album, "Women and Country." You've been doing this for a living for 20 years?

Mr. DYLAN: Just about.

SIMON: How do you keep growing, as an artist?

Mr. DYLAN: Yeah, as an artist. You know, I think you just try to stay unsettled, and you just try to follow your nose and be a part of things that are good. And I think that the evolving part happens naturally. Any time I've tried to do it intentionally, it's never been that fruitful on any level.

So I think as you get older, and I think as you have more experience, it just changes on its own. And you can't imagine why you did things the way you did even just two years ago.

SIMON: So, you're going to be touring together.

Ms. CASE: Yes.

Ms. HOGAN: Yes.

SIMON: Mr. Dylan, you have some children, right?

Mr. DYLAN: I do.

SIMON: Are they coming along with you the way you once did?

Mr. DYLAN: If it's the right time, yeah. I mean, my preference? I mean, boy, if I can go back and do it again, I wish I was in school all those years.

Ms. CASE: Really?

Ms. HOGAN: Really?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DYLAN: Because I've been there, I can say, if they'd only let me stay in school. School is good. At the right time, yeah, they visit. But I'm a fan of stability, and I think they need structure more so than elevators, airports.

Ms. HOGAN: Airports, yeah.

Mr. DYLAN: You know, yeah.

Ms. HOGAN: (Unintelligible).

Mr. DYLAN: But they do, yeah, when the time is right, they do.

SIMON: One more question, the inevitable.

Mr. DYLAN: Yeah.

SIMON: Do you know if your father listens to your music?

Mr. DYLAN: I can actually answer for sure that he has said recently, it's his favorite music in the entire world in the history of music.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DYLAN: And recommends everybody get multiple copies and for the holidays, available at Starbucks and a retail store near you soon.

SIMON: Never too early to stock up for the holidays?

Mr. DYLAN: Never too late, yeah. He said, you know what, I don't really know what he means exactly. He just recommend that everybody get it fast and early.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DYLAN: No, he's always been supportive. I hope there's never been a misunderstanding of anything but that. But always been supportive.

SIMON: Is there a song you'd like to take us out on?

Mr. DYLAN: Sure.

SIMON: Before you start...

Mr. DYLAN: Yeah.

SIMON: ...let me thank you. Been wonderful talking to all of you.

Mr. DYLAN: Likewise. Thanks for having us and...

Ms. HOGAN: Indeed.

Ms. CASE: Thank you.

Mr. DYLAN: ...thank you for talking to us.

SIMON: Jakob Dylan, Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, playing songs from Jakob Dylan's new album, "Women and Country." And now we're going to hear...

Mr. DYLAN: "They've Trapped Us Boys."

(Soundbite of song, "They've Trapped Us Boys")

Mr. DYLAN: (Singing) Gentlemen, where have we been? Can't find the hole where we got in. We've had those letters since spring. Gentlemen, where have we been?

SIMON: Jakob Dylan's album, "Women and Country," is out this week. And while he was here in our studios, he recorded a special video for our Tiny Desk Concert series. You can watch the video at NPRMusic.org.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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