AOTY 2023

Rough and Rowdy Ways

Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways
Critic Score
Based on 31 reviews
2020 Ratings: #5 / 868
Year End Rank: #10
User Score
Based on 889 ratings
2020 Ratings: #298
Liked by 85 people
June 19, 2020 / Release Date
LP / Format
Columbia / Label
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It’s not merely the novelty of new Bob songs that offers comfort in this black swan moment, it’s a set of songs that provides inspiration when it’s in short supply. Call it a vaccine against culture’s shrinking expectations and the subsequent sapping of spirit. Or just call it great music.
Evening Standard

The 70 minutes of Rough and Rowdy Ways, knotted with literary allusions, historical references, pure poetry and the occasional joke, are more than Nobel-worthy, an edifice of lyrical virtuousity that could keep Dylanologists going for years.

The Irish Times
What is not in doubt, however, is that the master is back on song.
The Arts Desk
Even after repeated and detailed listens, it feels endless and bottomless. What a piece of work. It’s bizarre, eccentric, unlike anything else he or anyone else has done. It ranks with the very best.
Spectrum Culture

Rough and Rowdy Ways stands unimpeachably among the very best albums of Dylan’s six decade career.

The Telegraph
That he comes through loud and clear is a testament to his own production skills and his band’s delicate arrangements. Everything lifts Dylan’s ragged vocals, even as drums, bass and electric guitars cascade around him. The ambience is laid back, yet the sentiments are anything but. There are 10 songs, spanning 70 minutes, and not a moment is wasted.
Entertainment Weekly

More pertinently, Rough and Rowdy Ways is a clear reflection of America’s jagged landscape — one of romance and mystery, creativity and fortune, protestations and politicking, conquests and colonialism. It makes for an exquisite, haunting listen.

The Guardian

For all its bleakness, Rough and Rowdy Ways might well be Bob Dylan’s most consistently brilliant set of songs in years: the die-hards can spend months unravelling the knottier lyrics, but you don’t need a PhD in Dylanology to appreciate its singular quality and power.


Rough and Rowdy Ways is the work of a man in love with language and philosophy, and, at 79, he continues to take the pulse of the zeitgeist with unerring precision.

The Line of Best Fit

Rough and Rowdy Ways is a magical, threatening and ultimately challenging metaphysical exhibition of a writer’s limitless talent riding roughshod over convention.

On his first original album in eight years, the master explores religion and war, music and civil rights, pulling at threads to see what unravels
Rolling Stone

On Rough and Rowdy Ways, Dylan is exploring terrain nobody else has reached before—yet he just keeps pushing on into the future.

It is, quite simply, a staggeringly good record for an artist at this late stage of what has been a remarkable career, entirely made up of original compositions and worthy in its own way to stand alongside the masterpieces of its creator’s mid-’60s and mid-’70s halcyon periods.
Classic Rock
His thirty-ninth album is a masterly late summation of his artistic vision.
The Sydney Morning Herald

Rough and Rowdy Ways continues the gravity-defying trajectory of Dylan's work during the past two decades to be considered among the finest albums of the creative renaissance that began with 1997's Time Out of Mind.

No Ripcord

Rough and Rowdy Ways is the ambitious opus we didn't think he'd return to after close to a decade of elegantly phoning it in.

Six decades into his career, Bob Dylan delivers a gorgeous and meticulous record. It is the rare Dylan album that asks to be understood and comes down to meet its audience.
He can still surprise us, this complicated man.

An artist haunted by the prospect of his passing while still facing down new challenges, Bob Dylan remains above all else a student of America.

Slant Magazine
The album encompasses the infinite potential for grace and disaster during the most turbulent of ages.
The Independent
His first new material since 2012’s ‘Tempest’ is a soothing fit for the lockdown mood in which time and meaning feel strangely stretched and untethered.
The Observer

Over 10 tracks, he seeds Rough and Rowdy Ways with deep musical and lyrical erudition, witticisms and considerable panache.


The music is almost simple, mostly acoustic with thick blues stuffed in every wrinkle. Dylan doesn’t sing. It’s poetic delivery that plants every sentence firmly in the ground. Each will sprout, spreading new roots in the world of Dylan discovery as we break down his every breath and assign it meaning. Each song needs annotation.


Rough and Rowdy Ways is akin to transformational albums such as Love and Theft, and Slow Train Coming. It's a portrait of the artist in winter who remains vital and enigmatic. At nearly 80, Dylan's pen and guitar case still hold plenty of magic.

The Forty-Five
Sumptuously laidback – which is pretty understandable, seeing as Dylan is only a year off 80 – this isn’t a record that’s stuck in the past, trading on former glories or even scared of the future.

If Rough and Rowdy Ways is his valedictory statement to us, it's certainly in keeping with his traditionalist spirit.

The Young Folks

Bob Dylan’s 39th studio album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, finds the aging Nobel Prize-winning singer-songwriter looking to the past and settling comfortably there both in terms of sound and subject matter.

FLOOD Magazine

You get a rugged-yet-elegant Dylan—once again reinvented.

Consequence of Sound
Dylan's powers persist but feel slightly squandered on this forgettable return to new material.
The Needle Drop

If you're not already a fan of Bob Dylan's 21st century output, Rough and Rowdy Ways probably won't do much to change that.

Pretty but redundant songwriting from an artist who no longer has his finger on the pulse.

Bob Dylan says cock. 10/10.

So I have a little confession to make: I've never listened to Bob Dylan. Look, I know how 'influencial' and 'great' and 'godsent' he is, and how he's the only 'Bob' that matters and all that jazz. I get that. But A) there are a million artists I love that I still haven't done a deep dive on, and B) there is SO MUCH Bob Dylan material it gets hard on where exactly to start.

Because he's been going HARD since 1960, he has an overwhelming amount of material. And ... read more


EDIT - Finally

Ok, here are my thoughts (maybe feelings)

Dylan is one of those artists that has accomplished almost everything. He has an extensive discography (with at least six records filling every single list about the best rock albums of all time) a Nobel prize, an Oscar and a long list of personal records. In fact there is not a single one music lover over thirty years of age that is going to doubt his relevance as a musical figure. Otherwise, I have always had the feeling that for the ... read more


Rough and Rowdy Ways stands out very clearly, by its poetry and singularity from everything we hear at the moment. Bob Dylan has not only found the timing excellent, but on top of that he offers us a melancholy album of a power as fascinating as it is stunning.

There are thousands of things that could be told on this album. It's clear that Rough and Rowdy Ways in the image of its legendary creator is really against the current on many points, to the point of creating a generational fracture, ... read more


i saw him on this tour and i gotta say man
he might be the coolest guy of all time

favorite track: i contain multitudes




I feel like most peoples opinions on this album are split into two, rather you love it or you think its a really average album. Obviously from the score Ive given it you can tell I loved it.

After two kinda disappointing blues rock albums and an unremarkable Frank Sinatra tribute trilogy Bob has finally returned to his shell with his best work since ‘Time Out of Mind.’ This has to be one of if not his most depressing work yet, much of the songs have to do with getting old and the ... read more

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Added on: May 8, 2020