July 15th, 2019


75 Dollar Bill - Hollis Brown

The Ballad Of Hollis Brown is not one of Bob Dylan's better songs. Hollis Brown is a dirt farmer driven to extremes by poverty and misery. He spends his last dollar on shotgun cartridges, kills his wife, his children and finally himself. Whatever poetry or social commentary Dylan tried to take from the story was completely obscured by the grotesque and rather fanciful familicide. Good strong guitar lick though.

And it's that lick that survives in 75 Dollar Bill's instrumental version. In Che Chen's hands it becomes eternal. His splintered guitar rings out, extending and contracting, a living thing part blues part folk part Saharan desert music. It's like a small mammal wriggling in your hands, yet both thrilling and hypnotic. From the album Wooden Bag (2015).

75 Dollar Bill - Hollis Brown