• Record Label: Columbia
  • Release Date: Jun 19, 2020
Metascore
95

Universal acclaim - based on 23 Critic Reviews

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 23 out of 23
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 23
  3. Negative: 0 out of 23
Buy On
  1. Jun 25, 2020
    100
    Rough and Rowdy Days is a typically astounding, kaleidoscopic journey through the last half-century of American history. ... Dylan lapped us a long time ago. He’s still sprinting far ahead. And now he definitely can’t be caught.
  2. 100
    Rough and Rowdy Ways is a clear reflection of America’s jagged landscape — one of romance and mystery, creativity and fortune, protestations and politicking, conquests and colonialism. It makes for an exquisite, haunting listen.
  3. Jun 19, 2020
    100
    In keeping with other self-produced Dylan releases of recent years, the sonics of Rough And Rowdy Ways is as clear as its word sets are dense. ... The musicianship will not steal or detract attention from Bob himself, but rather encircle him as he performs, their fluid interplay functioning like that ideal frame which vividly illuminates a striking painting or photo. ... As with all the best Bob Dylan albums, poetic imagery abounds.
  4. 100
    Rough and Rowdy Ways is long, intricately woven and illuminating as a medieval tapestry, and just as precious. It’ll make you cry, it’ll make you tear your hair out, it’ll make you gasp with awe.
  5. Jun 18, 2020
    100
    Rough and Rowdy Ways is the work of a man in love with language and philosophy, and, at 79, he continues to take the pulse of the zeitgeist with unerring precision. He ain't no false prophet, he's an artist, he don't look back.
  6. Jun 16, 2020
    100
    At its heart, this is a serious work, with an underlying somberness. ... Almost 60 years since we first heard from him, the old protest singer is still composing extraordinary anthems for our changing times.
  7. Jun 15, 2020
    100
    “Rough and Rowdy Ways” rolls out one marvel after another, with killer playing from the singer’s road band.
  8. Jun 15, 2020
    100
    For all its bleakness, Rough and Rowdy Ways might well be Bob Dylan’s most consistently brilliant set of songs in years: the die-hards can spend months unravelling the knottier lyrics, but you don’t need a PhD in Dylanology to appreciate its singular quality and power.
  9. Jun 15, 2020
    100
    More evidence of the vast scope of his artistic vision. What’s extraordinary is how it continues to expand, containing multitudes no one else thought of.
  10. 100
    It’s a vision of which DeLillo, Picasso or Eliot would be proud, and serves as a fitting close on a record that aspires to be the musical equivalent of the Great American Novel. It would be foolish indeed to assume that ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’ is Dylan’s last word, but it’s certainly a historic address.
  11. Jun 18, 2020
    94
    Now, as on that pivotal work [2001’s “Love and Theft”], it makes for songs that can be as confounding as they are thrilling. What an accomplishment it is to be 79 and achieving new levels of elusiveness — riveting elusiveness — as his mystery train rolls closer to the station.
  12. Jun 22, 2020
    90
    It is, quite simply, a staggeringly good record for an artist at this late stage of what has been a remarkable career, entirely made up of original compositions and worthy in its own way to stand alongside the masterpieces of its creator’s mid-’60s and mid-’70s halcyon periods.
  13. Jun 22, 2020
    90
    As it is with his most defining works, Rough and Rowdy Ways will have us trying to decipher and untangle Dylan's thoughts for sixty more to come. But the one thing he wants to make clear above all else, even when contemplating his mortality and the transcience of life, is that he's far from writing his obituary.
  14. Jun 22, 2020
    90
    As with his best work, Rough and Rowdy Ways encompasses the infinite potential for grace and disaster that can be clearly discerned but rarely summarized in the most turbulent of ages.
  15. Jun 18, 2020
    90
    It results in a gorgeous and meticulous record. The lyrics are striking—dense enough to inspire a curriculum, clever enough to quote like proverbs.
  16. Jun 15, 2020
    90
    On Rough and Rowdy Ways, Dylan is exploring terrain nobody else has reached before—yet he just keeps pushing on into the future.
  17. Jun 15, 2020
    90
    An artist haunted by the prospect of his passing while still facing down new challenges, Bob Dylan remains above all else a student of America.
  18. Jun 22, 2020
    80
    Rough and Rowdy Ways has little, if any, rock 'n' roll, but the sneer remains. Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits might vaguely peek in a little. Dylan has long lost interest in conforming to expectations, so it's no surprise that on a new record, he either satisfies all of them or none of them. He sounds like Dylan, whatever that is.
  19. Jun 22, 2020
    80
    Here, beautiful songs are played with discretion and near-telepathy; a luminosity hovers above the slow miniatures.
  20. Jun 19, 2020
    80
    Rough and Rowdy Ways is akin to transformational albums such as Love and Theft, and Slow Train Coming. It's a portrait of the artist in winter who remains vital and enigmatic. At nearly 80, Dylan's pen and guitar case still hold plenty of magic.
  21. Jun 19, 2020
    80
    Latter-day Bob Dylan is for die-hards. ... His music is adamantly old-fashioned, and he’s not aiming to ingratiate himself with anyone. But for those who have stuck with him this far, his new album, “Rough and Rowdy Ways,” is at once a summing-up and a taunt, equal parts death-haunted and cantankerous.
  22. 80
    His richly soporific new album – his first new material since 2012’s Tempest – plays like an extension of that [2016 Nobel Prize acceptance] speech: a folksy recitation of literary and pop references sprawling over long, ramshackle songs with minimal (mostly acoustic) melodies that sway back and forth behind him like curtains in a light breeze.
  23. 67
    Dylan could use some editing here, for sure, but it’d be even better to let his band off their leashes and, like in the old juke joint featured on the album’s cover, close the windows and let it get hot in there.
User Score
7.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 107 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 86 out of 107
  2. Negative: 14 out of 107
  1. Jun 20, 2020
    6
    On Rough and Rowdy Ways, his first release of original songs since 2012, Bob Dylan dishes on a wide range of topics from mortality, history,On Rough and Rowdy Ways, his first release of original songs since 2012, Bob Dylan dishes on a wide range of topics from mortality, history, and inspiration to pop culture. He speaks more so than sings through a scratchy voice that bristles and pops like a dusty record spouting socio-political ruminations on a world that's not dark yet but getting there.

    The bottom line is that Dylan's lyrics overtake this collection. The crafty chord shifts, wailing harmonica, and rock rhythms, which defined the folk-rock sound in the '60s and '70s, are nowhere to be found. His soliloquies are, at times, poignant and prescient. Other times they are self-indulgent and self-aggrandizing, making the overall listening experience confoundingly hollow.

    If we focus on the more poignant lyrics, there is a lot to like. Dylan's masterfully infuses metaphor and weaves in pop references to create something of a hip hidden history lesson for the uninitiated. "Murder Most Foul" is by far the most potent track lyrically. Dylan skillfully uses the JFK assassination as a baseline from which to ruminate poetically on the thousand historical reverberations rippling from the impact of that fateful day.

    Still, I had a hard time picturing anything but Dylan on stage at a poetry reading with a bass player and a drummer in the corner laying down jazzy syncopations while Bob reads from a notebook of poems. Couplets that struck me most forcefully include:

    I Contain Multitudes: "I'm just like Anne Frank, like Indiana Jones. And them British bad boys, the Rolling Stones. I go right to the edge, I go right to the end. I go right where all things lost are made good again."

    Crossing the Rubicon: "I feel the holy spirit inside, see the light that freedom gives. I believe it's in the reach of every man who lives."

    Mother of Muses: "Mother of Muses unleash your wrath. Things I can't see, they're blocking my path."

    Murder Most Foul: "The day they killed him, someone said to me, "Son. The age of the Antichrist has just only begun."

    Overall, words alone are not enough to hold Rough and Rowdy Ways together, there is no sonic earth for these verses of truth to take root. Guitar & Pen gives out no free passes, as some other magazines do. While we kneel at the feet of the Gods, we won't always kiss the ring. If only old Bob had brought in Mark Knopfler to play some backing guitar, or Jacques Levy on electric violin or Daniel Lanois to produce, this would be a record for the ages. As is, I consider it more of an audiobook than a record album. While the lyrics shine, the band's restraint makes this a largely forgettable release.
    Full Review »
  2. Jun 22, 2020
    10
    This is up there with Love and Theft and Time out of Mind. Another great album that is a mix of fun, mischief, and reflection. It is some kindThis is up there with Love and Theft and Time out of Mind. Another great album that is a mix of fun, mischief, and reflection. It is some kind of alchemy that he can continue to put out classics like this that take where he's been and move it on to something new and different. I absolutely love it. All of it. Full Review »
  3. Jun 19, 2020
    10
    Maybe his Best album since Desire (i can't decide if it's better than Time Out of Mind)