“This crazy, weird and wild path started with a dream I had of Bob Dylan. We sat in a tiny restaurant with candles and he said, ‘You’re doing good/I like you/I want you to keep going,’ ” Mary Lee Kortes — a Brooklyn singer-songwriter and author — shared with a packed audience of fans and friends at Little City Books in Hoboken, Nov. 16. The occasion was a celebration of the release of her book, “Dreaming of Dylan: 115 Dreams About Bob” (BMG Books, 160 pp, $24.99).
“I woke up the next day in a cloud of ecstasy,” she continued, “because Bob said it’s gonna be alright. Then I gathered other people’s Dylan dreams and remind you all tonight that your old ideas can reap some benefits.”
For Kortes, those benefits included “Dreaming of Dylan,” a gorgeous compilation of illustrated dreams by artists including Patti Smith, Warren Zanes and Jimbo Mathus, as well as social workers, attorneys and consultants from all over the world. Kortes acknowledged some of the artists who contributed the hypnotic drawings and photographs present at Little City Books, including Rina and Daniel Root.
In addition to reading excerpts from the book, she also led a Dylan songfest with Hoboken’s Guitar Bar All Stars (James Mastro, Boo Reiners and Patrick Conlon) plus guests Richard Barone, Warren Zanes, Dave Schramm, Glenn Mercer, Eric Ambel, Elena Skye, The Kennedys and Laura Cantrell. This powerhouse group of artists, who also read excerpted dreams, brought the bookstore alive with so much creative connection and buzz that I thought the books would fall off the shelves with excitement.
Engaged by their passion for Dylan and support of the author, the artists kept the energy high, starting off the evening with Kortes’ lively rendition of “Tangled Up in Blue” accompanied by Ambel; followed by Schramm’s haunting set of acoustic versions of “Forever Young” and “Fourth Time Around.”
Cantrell sang both “Thunder on the Mountain” and “Going, Going, Gone” with delicate force, accompanied by Reiners, Mastro and Pete Kennedy; Pete and Maura Kennedy led the group in a lively singalong of “Mr. Tambourine Man” and played “Changing of the Guard”; Barone and Mercer brought The Bongos and The Feelies together in a beautiful version of “I’ll Keep it With Mine.”
Kortes’ voice cried out “I can change, I swear/See what you can do/I can make it through/You can make it, too,” in her dreamy and reflective version of “You’re a Big Girl Now,” backed by Reiners and Mastro. Her version of the song caught Dylan’s attention when Kortes first released it in 2002 on a live album featuring all the songs from Dylan’s classic Blood on the Tracks album. Dylan kept this song on his website for almost a year, Kortes said in a prior interview, and asked her to open for him.
Sometimes dreams do come true.
Ambel rocked the house with “If You Gotta Go, Go Now.” Skye and Reiners (both from the Demolition String Band) joined together to play “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” Mercer generated a tornado of sound with his forceful renditions of “Seven Days” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”
Zanes read an excerpt from his dream, titled “Pool Boy,” about his experience writing about Tom Petty and the dream he had about him and Dylan during the process: “Here’s what you don’t want to hear when conducting interviews for a book project: ‘I’m going to tell you a great story … but you can’t use it.’ When I hear this, I think, ‘You know I’m gathering material for a book, right, that I’m not just here for the hang?’ The worst of it is that these stories are quite often, and as described, great. And how often have the great stories been about Bob Dylan? Often.”
Then Zanes blasted the bookstore cabaret with “Isis.”
Kortes read from a social worker’s dream: “I was invited together with a lot of others to enter a slow train that was arriving. We all boarded, and it started to move forward. Suddenly, it wasn’t a train anymore; it was transformed into a plane, and I was the only passenger. The top, sides, and floor fell off. Then I saw the captain of the plane was Dylan. He smiled wickedly, and off he went, leaving me alone up there in space, in the dark, paralyzed.”
It would have been enough to hear Kortes read from her creative collection of nighttime Dylan musings. But to be enveloped by the strong group of talent singing Dylan classics was an unexpected pleasure.
I bought two copies of her book as holiday gifts for Dylan lovers in my family.
If you want to catch Kortes in person, she will be holding a reading from her book, Nov. 29 at Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books in New York.
For more information on her, and updates, visit maryleescorvette.com.