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Jakob Dylan's new album is artful and rough in all the right places

Jakob Dylan's brand-new collection, Women and Country, is by far the most interesting release by the former Wallflowers frontman. It's subtle, funny and intimate without being hermetic, not to mention a good contemporary take on the grand old country tradition. Likely first impression: "Wow, Jakob Dylan made the best Springsteen record in years" -- something small, artful and rough in all the right places, like hearing Nebraska right after the Born to Run era.

Dylan himself thinks the new material -- which features Neko Case and is elevated by the unfussy production of T-Bone Burnett -- as a kind of roots music. "I guess people say 'roots music' and they have an image of Americana," he says. "But I just think of roots music meaning things of great substance that have already kinda stood the test of time. You're never going to regret using that or hearing that. You know they're always going to have a place.

"Technology usually ends up biting everybody in the ass at some point or another," he adds. "I'm not surprised that people seem to be looking backward a bit. It's very difficult today to find a place to be comfortable."

But Women and Country's roots are not of the dimestore, "Old Weird America" variety. Some of the tunes, like the playful "Smile When You Call Me That," even have the relaxed feel of a polished Gary Stewart record from the mid-'70s. It would be unfortunate if this release were noticed only by nostalgic Wallflowers fans or Mojo subscribers. It's a fantastic L.A. country record that can be appreciated by fans of Neutral Milk Hotel, Joanna Newsom or Bonnie "Prince" Billy.