- Personnel: Larry Campbell, Benmont Tench, Tony Garnier, George Recile, Charlie Sexton.
- Audio Mixers: Chris Shaw ; Malcolm Burn; Micajah Ryan.
- This eighth chapter in Dylan's epic Bootleg Series covers the era bookended by 1989's OH MERCY and 2006's MODERN TIMES. As the only installment with its own unique title, TELL TALE SIGNS acts in some ways as its own original record and the fourth salvo in the renaissance kicked off by 1997's TIME OUT OF MIND. A deeply satisfying two-disc set, TELL TALE SIGNS argues emphatically that these albums were no fluke, but rooted in a significantly broader, deeper wellspring of creativity. Unconcerned with the contemporary zeitgeist, Dylan synthesizes old forms--from rockabilly to jump blues; from Jimmie Rodgers-esque parlor balladry to country gospel--into his millieu with extraordinary ease, and rides various ace line-ups (which feature such stalwarts as guitarist/fiddler Larry Campbell, guitarist Charlie Sexton, and organist Augie Meyers) into an isolated dreamland soaked with spring reverb and pulsating tremolo. The stranger in these songs may be familiar, but now his visions thrum with nostalgia and regret.
- The highlights are many. A devastating acoustic demo of the OH MERCY stand-out "Most of the Time" rescues the song from Daniel Lanois's overweaning production on the original. "Red River Shore" and "Marchin' to the City"--cut from the final sequence of TIME OUT OF MIND--smolder. Two vastly different alternate versions of both the OH MERCY-era single "Dignity" and LOVE AND THEFT's "Mississippi" reveal the degree to which Dylan plumbs a song's performative possibilities. Still restless, still aching, still remarkable, TELL TALE SIGNS is yet another revelation in a career already crowded with them.
Rolling Stone (p.76) - 4.5 stars out of 5 -- "TELL TALE SIGNS makes plain that Dylan knows the caprices of the world he lives in, now more than ever. Just as important, this collection bears witness to Dylan's reclamation of voice and perspective."
Rolling Stone (p.88) - Ranked #2 in Rolling Stone's 50 Best Albums Of 2008 -- "The veering tempers of Dylan's medicine-rattle rasp are a wonder to themselves."
Entertainment Weekly (p.70) - "[T]he generally superb TELL TALE SIGNS repurposes known material in simple, languid, semi-acoustic settings that hark back to '70s classics like BLOOD ON THE TRACKS." -- Grade: A
Mojo (Publisher) (p.122) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Dylan's second album with Lanois, TIME OUT OF MIND, is represented by a nice, slow blues alternative take of 'Can't Wait' and four songs that didn't make the final cut....Top prizes go to gutbucket 'Lonesome Day Blues' and harmony-laden 'Cocaine Blues'..."
Record Collector (magazine) (p.86) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "The overriding lesson from these TELL TALE SIGNS is of Bob's immaculate role as performer. There is no one 'final version' of a track -- just the one that happens to make sense on the day."
Uncut (magazine) - 5 stars out of 5 -- "TELL TALE SIGNS is awash with evidence of his staggering mercuriality, his evident determination even in the studio to repeat himself as little as possible..."