New Old Dylan: “Pretty Saro”

Bob Dylan is releasing a new box set in his Bootleg series, Another Self-Portrait, on August 27. The new set includes unreleased recordings made for Nashville Skyline (1969), New Morning (1970), and the much-maligned Self-Portrait (1970). Critic Greil Marcus famously reviewed the latter album, asking “What is this Shit?” But he is much more kind in his review of the new box set, which looks like it might have some gems.

Rolling Stone premiered one of the songs on the new set, “Pretty Saro.” The song is an old English folk tune dating from he early 1700s. Although through the centuries the song had basically disappeared in England, it was preserved in the U.S. by singers in the Appalachian Mountains. More recently, Iris DeMent recorded the song the 2000 film Songcatcher.

In “Pretty Saro” the singer finds himself alone away from home. He understands that his love, Pretty Saro, will not have him because he had no land. At the end, he wishes he were a poet who could write her a letter. As he sits by the river, he reveals he dreams of his lost love wherever he goes. In the version used by Iris DeMent, the song ends with the singer wishing he was a turtle dove who could fly back to Saro and lay in her arms.

Check out the video for Bob Dylan’s version of “Pretty Saro” created by Jennifer Lebeau, who used photos and videos from the Farm Security Administration to accompany the song. Lebeau had also worked on Dylan’s 1994 MTV Unplugged video.

What do you think of Dylan’s version of “Pretty Saro”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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  • This Week in Pop Culture Roundup (11 Dec. 2011)
  • Dylan’s Late-Career Classics: Not Dark Yet
  • October 1992: They Were So Much Older Then
  • Bob Dylan Croons “I Could Have Told You”
  • (Some related Chimesfreedom posts.)

    One thought on “New Old Dylan: “Pretty Saro””

    1. What is this shit?
      Dylan was hiding in his own shadow obviously, this is lovely. Another piece of hidden gold from the treasure chest.
      One point tho, Dylan can’t paint for shit.

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