by Ann Powers, NPR

Bob Dylan's 35th studio album, Tempest, will be released on Sept. 11.

Courtesy of the artist

“Duquesne Whistle,” begins in the middle of a scene, like the fade-in in a classic Western. It’s the first song we get to hear from Bob Dylan‘s Tempest, the album he will release on September 11, 50 years and six months after the commencement of his recoding career. The music starts faintly, as if in a vintage pleasure palace, with the band — the stalwarts who’ve played with Dylan for a while and join him on the Never-Ending Tour — playing rock and roll ragtime off in the corner. The electric guitars sound almost like clarinets. Everybody’s swinging! But what’s that in the distance? Dylan himself unleashes the rubbery guitar chord change that repeats for the rest of the song, sounding just like a locomotive blast. Is he hopping that thing? Is somebody he loves on it? Both are possible.

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like it’s gonna sweep my world away
I wanna stop at Carbondale and keep on going
That Duquesne train gon’ rock me night and day

You say I’m a gambler, you say I’m a pimp
But I ain’t neither one
Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Sounding like it’s on a final run

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she never blowed before
Little light blinking, red light glowing
Blowing like she’s at my chamber door

You smiling through the fence at me
Just like you always smiled before
Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she ain’t gon’ blow no more

Can’t you hear that Duquesne whistle blowing?
Blowing like the sky’s gonna blow apart
You’re the only thing alive that keeps me going
You’re like a time bomb in my heart

I can hear a sweet voice steadily calling
Must be the mother of our Lord
Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like my woman’s on board

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like it’s gon’ blow my blues away
You old rascal, I know exactly where you’re going
I’ll lead you there myself at the break of day

I wake up every morning with that woman in my bed
Everybody telling me she’s gone to my head
Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like it’s gonna kill me dead

Can’t you hear that Duquesne whistle blowing?
Blowing through another no good town
The lights on my lady’s land are glowing
I wonder if they’ll know me next time ’round

I wonder if that old oak tree’s still standing
That old oak tree, the one we used to climb
Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she’s blowing right on time

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