Blood in the Tracks: The Minnesota Musicians behind Dylan's Masterpiece

Blood in the Tracks: The Minnesota Musicians behind Dylan's Masterpiece

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The story of the Minneapolis musicians who were unexpectedly summoned to re-record half of the songs on Bob Dylan's most acclaimed album

When Bob Dylan recorded Blood on the Tracks in New York in September 1974, it was a great album. But it was not the album now ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the ten best of all time. “When something’s not right, it’s wrong,” as Dylan puts it in “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”—and something about that original recording led him to a studio in his native Minnesota to re-record five songs, including “Idiot Wind” and “Tangled Up in Blue.” Six Minnesota musicians participated in that two-night recording session at Sound 80, bringing their unique sound to some of Dylan’s best-known songs—only to have their names left off the album and their contribution unacknowledged for more than forty years. This book tells the story of those two nights in Minneapolis, introduces the musicians who gave the album so much of its ultimate form and sound, and describes their decades-long fight for recognition.

Blood in the Tracks takes readers behind the scenes with these “mystery” Minnesota musicians: twenty-one-year-old mandolin virtuoso Peter Ostroushko; drummer Bill Berg and bass player Billy Peterson, the house rhythm section at Sound 80; progressive rock keyboardist Gregg Inhofer; guitarist Chris Weber, who owned The Podium guitar shop in Dinkytown; and Kevin Odegard, whose own career as a singer-songwriter had paralleled Dylan’s until he had to take a job as a railroad brakeman to make ends meet. Through in-depth interviews and assiduous research, Paul Metsa and Rick Shefchik trace the twists of fate that brought these musicians together and then set them on different paths in its wake: their musical experiences leading up to the December 1974 recording session, the divergent careers that followed, and the painstaking work required to finally obtain the official credit that they were due. 

A rare look at the making—or remaking—of an all-time great album, and a long overdue recognition of the musicians who made it happen, Blood in the Tracks brings to life a transformative moment in the history of rock and roll, for the first time in its true context and with its complete cast of players.

Review

"Beyond the richly detailed account of the Sound 80 sessions, Rick Shefchik and Paul Metsa have crafted a gripping pre-Internet tale of what it took (and still takes) to be a struggling musician. Dylan looms over every page, but for anyone who’s ever given themselves up to a life in music—or loved someone who did—the stories told by the Minnesota Six about gigging, practicing, recording, family life, and all the heartaches and triumphs that come along with the chase are equal parts poignant, romantic, sad, funny, and inspiring. An essential slice of Minnesota music history."—Jim Walsh, songwriter, journalist, and author of Gold Experience: Following Prince in the ’90s

"Paul Metsa and Rick Shefchik's biography of a record is like none I've ever read before. The intimate chronicling of the crafting and recording of Blood on the Tracks, from the songs' beginnings in Dylan's spiral notebooks to their shaping in New York and Minnesota, is indeed the life of Bob Dylan's masterpiece. Long may the names of the Minneapolis musicians and Sound 80 staff, some of them garnering a first official credit for their work on the record, be remembered now."—Anne Margaret Daniel, The New School 

"One of the great services [Blood in the Tracks] does is Metsa and Shefchik’s meticulous and expansive research on the lives and careers of the Minnesota musicians who gathered in Herb Pilhofer’s Sound 80 studio in Minneapolis."—Houston Press

"Metsa and Shefchik give these unsung musicians their long-deserved due."—Booklist

"Blood In The Tracks is a significant contribution toward correcting cultural history in the music world. It is a deeply human story, transformative in the authors' abilities to take facts and information to a level of narration that equals the power of the music they are writing about."—Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal

"Blood On the Tracks is probably the greatest, most fully-realized record that has ever been made. Meanwhile, Blood in the Tracks—the story of how the album was laid on tape—is no less riveting."—Electric Review

"Blood In The Tracks not only details the making of Dylan’s album, it also sheds light on both the vitality of the Minneapolis music scene and the intuitive dynamics at play in the mind of the Nobel Prize-winning singer/songwriter."—Duluth Reader

"Blood in the Tracks now stands as the definitive account of the sessions that produced one of the most lauded albums ever recorded in Minnesota."—Duluth News Tribune

About the Author

Paul Metsa is a musician and songwriter with twelve original records to his credit, as well as an autobiography, Blue Guitar Highway, also published by University of Minnesota Press. He has played more than five thousand professional gigs—including at Farm Aid V in Dallas in 1992, the Tribute to Woody Guthrie at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, and the Million Mom March in Washington, D.C., in 1999—and has received seven Minnesota Music Awards. His self-published Alphabet Jazz: Poetry, Prose, Stories, and Songs was released in September of 2022.

Rick Shefchik spent almost thirty years in daily journalism, mostly as a critic, reporter, and columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He is author of several books, including Everybody’s Heard about the Bird: The True Story of 1960s Rock ’n’ Roll in Minnesota (Minnesota, 2015).

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Univ Of Minnesota Press (September 12, 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 216 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1517914272
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1517914271
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.07 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches

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