For those of you expecting Bruce Springsteen, he’ll be back next week. We decided to alternate this series between Bob Dylan and Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.
By Daniel Ford and Dave Pezza
There isn’t a reliable YouTube clip of either of the following versions of "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You," so go out and buy the albums we mention below. It’ll be worth the money, trust us.
Dave: (studio version) I’ve always liked Bob Dylan, but it was only recently that I really began to really appreciate his music. I’ve hit my folk phase in my mid-20s, and nobody can folk out like Dylan. I recently picked up a copy of his 1969 album “Nashville Skyline.” I bought it on vinyl at a local used record store in Cranston, R.I. called the Time Capsule (decent selection, really cheap prices, and every once and a while you find a gem). I hit up the smaller than usual Dylan section to feed my new addiction. First record of the bunch, “Nashville Skyline.” I flipped it over to check the tracks and found side A, track one, “Girl from the North Country Fair,” the version with Johnny Cash. Sold! I took it and my other purchase, The Edgar Winter Group’s “They Only Come Out at Night” (the one with “Frankenstein”) and seven bucks and 10 minutes later “Nashville Skyline” is playing on my turntable. Enthralled to hear Dylan and Cash right off the bat, I stayed for a really enjoyable Dylan record from start to finish, especially the finish. Lying in wait at the very end of the album is “Tonight I’ll be Staying Here with You.” This quite perfect mix of folk and blues undertones will have you dancing before you know it. Dylan beams about ditching his bus ride home to stay with a lady. In case you haven’t experienced the feeling of sheer jubilance and excitement about a night with a pretty girl in a while, Dylan will conjure it all back in three and a half minutes. This track croons with slide guitar and dangerously catchy lyrics. It’s Dylan at his most enjoyable. Perfect to pair with this week’s bourbon: smooth, warm, and full American flavor from start to finish.
Daniel: (Live 1975 version) The studio version of this song is a love sick high school boy’s wistful dream compared to the raucous, brassy live version from “The Bootleg Series, Volume 5: Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue.” In fact, we’re going to call this the “wet dream version” from now on. This is what burning down your life to be with the woman you love should sound like. Guttural. Dylan screams this song more than he sings it. You can imagine him throwing middle fingers to the world. The bus? No one likes the bus. It’s a necessary evil. I once had to take the bus every weekend to see my girlfriend and every time I left Boston, I wanted to incinerate my suitcase, hop a cab back to the burbs, break down a door, and announce, “I should have left this town this morning/But it was more than I could do/Oh, your love comes on so strong/And I've waited all day long/For tonight when I'll be staying here with you.”
It's fitting that this song leads the album. You know right away what you’re in for. You’re not sipping bourbon to this song; you’re pounding fingers while shouting from your open window you’re staying put to have crazy, experimental, and neighborhood-awakening sexual relations with the beautiful woman you just gave everything up for (put a little Maker’s Mark behind your ears so she can enjoy the experience along with you if having a full glass isn’t her thing). If this song doesn’t rev you up and make you plant a deep, passionate wet one on your lover’s lips, you aren’t alive and should report to the cemetery immediately.
Dave: This week’s bourbon is the very recognizable, but always reliable, Maker’s Mark. It's the standard “good bourbon” at most bars. Not too expensive, it is a sweeter, smoother bourbon. As a result, it is perfect for drinking neat, but also makes a damn good cocktail. My pallet catches a definitive vanilla and cherry flavor on top of that always amazing oak. It warms more than it burns after it’s all the way down. It pairs really well with this cruising, swaying Dylan song. Shockingly well. To top it all off, the bourbon is packaged with an incredibly cool wax top. Maker’s Mark, named after the seal used to distinguish its product, dips the tip of every bottle in wax. Each bottle remains sealed until you crack it open with your own two hands. Nothing like a little bit of class with your buzz.
Daniel: I hadn’t tried Maker’s Mark until a recent visit to Sweet Cheeks Q near Fenway Park (I highly recommend this barbeque joint to those that live in the Boston area or those that plan to visit it in the near future). Dave incessantly tells me that this is his “go-to bourbon,” so I decided to order one to judge for myself (and to finally get him off my case). First of all, Maker’s Mark is an excellent bourbon to pair with copious amounts of barbeque. Taking hits of it from my mason jar after pile driving pulled pork into my gullet was heavenly. It provided the right amount of smoothness and fire to go along with my sides of potato salad and macaroni and cheese. The best part was that Stephanie Schaefer said my drink looked like a urine sample. I’ll admit that Sweet Cheeks was a little stingy with the amount of bourbon they poured into my jar, but come on, doesn’t this look gritty and man-tastic?
Okay, fine, the mason jar doesn’t do it any favors. Still, Maker’s Mark will now have a reserved spot in my whiskey drawer at Writer’s Bone HQ.
Daniel: What is it about westerns that make them the perfect complement to bourbon? Is it the questionable cowboy ethics and worldview? Or the lonely, dusty prairie bars that cry out for brown liquor salvation? Or is it the need to drown your sorrows after reading about the treatment of Native Americans during our country’s bloody history? Whatever the case, drinking bourbon is always better when reading a western, and there is no better western than Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. The novel features every western trope imaginable, but it feels fresh and feisty rather than quaint and dated. All of the characters are intriguing and you find yourself fully immersed in the plot’s last chance cattle drive. Plus, sex is referred to as “a poke” throughout the entire book. The novel was also made into an acclaimed mini-series in 1989 staring Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duvall, and Diane Lane. So that means if you imbibe too much Maker’s Mark and can’t decipher the English language on your own, you can just pop in a DVD and watch the story unfold while you drink the rest of the bottle. Lonesome Dove also features two names that belong on a Maker’s Mark commercial: Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call. I’d buy brown hooch from those two gentlemen. It’s their friendship that defines this book, and you’ll need all the whiskey you deal with how their story ends.