Bob Dylan’s 35th studio effort isn’t his “death album.” He’s been singing about kicking the bucket since his 1962 debut, and fans looking for evidence of Dylan facing mortality will find more clues on 1997’s Time Out of Mind—though there’s plenty of life on that one, too. What’s funny about Tempest is how comfortable Bob sounds staring into the abyss. Whether detailing a deadly love triangle (“Tin Angel”) or the sinking of the Titanic (“Tempest”), he’s less aggrieved insider than curious onlooker. He tells his tales like a wise old rambler with nothing but time, unfurling verse after verse as his band jams away on fiddles and accordions, acting like rock music has yet to be invented. Tempest is the weakest of Dylan’s late-career triumphs, but if, God forbid, it winds up being his farewell, these old-timey country-blues hoots will stand as testament to a songwriter who remained his singular self—sharp yet plainspoken, bitter and sarcastic yet sentimental and profound—right until the end. –Kenneth Partridge

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