Jakob Dylan Women + Country

The expectations placed upon Jakob Dylan to live up to his pedigree have decreased to virtually nothing ever since former band the Wallflowers' breakthrough album, Bringing Down The Horse, briefly made him a pop star in his own right. He's seemed at ease with the lower profile, as demonstrated by how his first solo album (the Rick Rubin-produced Seeing Things) quietly came and went. Now, with Women + Country, Dylan has reunited with Horse's producer (T-Bone Burnett) and it's lit a long-overdue creative fire. The usual Burnett studio magic comes in handy to spice up Dylan's generally laconic material, but it's the presence of Neko Case and Kelly Hogan on shared backing vocals that adds the perfect touch. Dylan's closest songwriting touchstone here actually seems to be Warren Zevon, as songs like "Everybody's Hurting" and "Yonder Comes The Blues" drip with the same melancholy that marked Zevon's best ballads. Women + Country still takes some time to get under the skin, but it's a significant step forward in terms of Dylan finally establishing his voice. (Columbia/Sony)