Chrissie Hynde Covers Dylan on ‘Standing in the Doorway’: Review

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Hundreds, if not thousands, of artists have covered Bob Dylan but in this writer’s opinion one interpreter has until recently stood head and shoulders above the competition: the late, great Jimmy LaFave. Now it appears we must make room at the top of the heap for the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, whose new collection of Dylan songs is called Standing in the Doorway.

Hynde has long since proven to be a brilliant vocalist and a versatile one. (Listen to the Pretenders’ eponymous debut album and then to The Isle of View to get a sense of her range.) She has also previously issued at least two excellent Dylan covers: “Forever Young,” which appears on the Pretenders’ Last of the Independents, and “I Shall Be Released,” which you’ll find on the album that resulted from Dylan’s 30th anniversary concert in New York. But she really shows what she can do on Standing in the Doorway.

The stellar nine-track program, which sticks to ballads, features a few often-covered numbers, including “Tomorrow Is a Long Time,” Blood on the Tracks’ “You’re a Big Girl Now” and Bringing it All Back Home’s “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” (a particularly gorgeous interpretation that ends with the sounds of the raven that the lyric references). But less obvious and occasionally obscure choices predominate. Among them: the title cut, which first appeared on 1997’s Time Out of Mind, and five tracks from Dylan’s widely panned early 1980s period (the subject of Springtime in New York, the latest edition of his Bootleg Series): “Every Grain of Sand” and “In the Summertime” from 1981’s Shot of Love; “Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight” and “Sweetheart Like You,” from 1983’s Infidels; and “Blind Willie McTell,” an Infidels outtake.

Listen to “You’re a Big Girl Now”

Hynde made the album during the pandemic lockdown with the Pretenders’ James Walbourne. “We did it from home on our phones,” she says. “I did the rhythm, sent it to James, he added guitar, sent it back to me, I put on the vocal, sent it back to him, he put on some backup vocals and organ, then we sent it to [producer and musician] Tchad Blake to tidy up.”

Related: Our Album Rewind of the Pretenders’ debut LP

These performances sure don’t sound phoned in, however. Throughout, Hynde’s nuanced vocals prove a perfect match for the material, and Walbourne’s understated acoustic instrumentation—which includes such instruments as piano, harmonium and mandolin, in addition to the aforementioned guitar—is sublime.

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