That five-star Rolling Stone review notwithstanding, this disc is no classic; a few too many of its bluesy lopes and old-timey crooneramas are musically interchangeable. But if Dylan's latest is a lesser variation on 2001's Love and Theft, it's every bit as cheeky. Instead of acting like a cranky old man, the 65-year-old Dylan exhibits relaxed confidence and a propensity to crack wise.
The lyrical looseness of the nascent Zimmy returns on "Rollin' and Tumblin'," in which he confesses that "some young lazy slut has charmed away my brains." And although "Thunder on the Mountain" isn't especially thunderous, his boast that he's "sucked the milk out of a thousand cows" more than compensates. He's still got an apocalyptic bent, as he proves on "Ain't Talkin'." But throughout the likes of "Someday Baby," his vocals radiate lightness and fun despite the gravel that's collected at the bottom of his register.
Dylan's modesty makes overpraising him seem pointless. By refusing to be entrapped by his mythos, he makes it a lot easier to enjoy these Modern Times.