Kansas City is prominent in the upcoming “Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes,” a collection of recently uncovered Bob Dylan lyrics set to melodies written by Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Jim James of My Morning Jacket.
One of Mumford’s songs is called “Kansas City,” a rollicking folk tune about a jilted lover who laments: “And I love you dear but just how long / And I keep singing the same old song / I’m going back to Kansas City.”
You can see his performance of the song in this video. It includes a cameo appearance by actor Johnny Depp on guitar.
In an interview with The London Telegraph, producer T-Bone Burnett says the song was a riposte to old associates.
“In 1967, Dylan had gone, in five years, from being an obscure folk singer to an international rock ’n’ roll icon of the highest magnitude,” Burnett said. “And, in the process, his original supporters turned on him and it seems like he’s saying: ‘Just how long can I keep singing the same old song?’ There’s a great line: ‘You invite me into your house / then you say you got to pay for what you break.’ I think that resonated very strongly with Marcus, because he has had a similar trajectory. He came out of the box very strong, became internationally successful and suffered an extreme backlash. Kansas City is his song as well.”
Costello wrote the melody to “Six Months in Kansas City (Liberty Street),” a gospel/soul anthem performed with a trio of backup singers, including Giddens. You can see a performance of that in this video.
According BobDylan.com, Dylan has never performed these two songs live, though he did open his 1986 show at Sandstone with Leiber and Stoller’s “Kansas City.” Kansas pops up in the first verse of “Meet Me in the Morning,” and Missouri pops up in “Trying to Get to Heaven.”
The lyrics to the “New Basement” songs were written in 1967, when Dylan recorded “The Basement Tapes” with the Band.
“Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes” will be released on Tuesday. Five of its tracks are available now on iTunes. Showtime will air a documentary about the sessions at 8 p.m., Nov. 21. Rolling Stone says the documentary will include a new interview with Dylan.
This isn’t the first time Dylan’s lyrics have been revived. In 2001, Kerch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show turned Dylan lyrics into “Wagon Wheel,” which became the band’s signature song. It went gold in 2011 and platinum in 2013. Darius Rucker covered the song on his album “True Believers.” It went No. 1 and triple platinum.
In 2013, Dylan sent Secor more lyrics to work with, which became “Sweet Amarillo,” a track included on the album Old Crow album “Remedy,” released this year.
There was a precedent to all of this: In 1998, the band Wilco and British folk singer Billy Bragg released “Mermaid Avenue,” for which they wrote melodies to previously unreleased lyrics written by Woody Guthrie. A follow-up, “Mermaid Avenue Vol. II,” was released in 2000.