Two years after the fact and now out in audio formats, Bob Dylan’s Shadow Kingdom has found its home. 

Originally a cryptic, black-and-white, pandemic-era livestream that found Dylan and a masked band miming new versions of old songs in a variety of noir settings, Shadow Kingdom the album is less distracting, more pleasing and quintessentially Dylan. 

The 13 numbers from the back pages of Dylan’s songbook – plus the instrumental “Sierra’s Theme” that ran over the closing credits – are radically rearranged, natch. Also, Dylan doesn’t sing like the glass-gargler of Tempest and Rough and Rowdy Ways; instead he sounds more like the transitional man on Under the Red Sky and Time out of Mind

“Everything is gonna be beautiful,” Dylan sings on “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” proving he takes his lyrics less seriously than many Dylanologists. 

In the Shadow Kingdom, acoustic instruments dominate, drums are forbidden and keys, harmonica and harpsichord add color alongside occasional mandolin and electric guitar. 

As such, “Tombstone Blues” and “It’s all Over Now, Baby Blue” are rendered as a half-spoken dirges. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” sashays languidly and “Watching the River Flow” retains its whitewater power even without the benefit of percussion. 

The listener is left with what is essentially a collection of re-recorded classics. While such schemes are almost always bound to failure, Bob Dylan and Shadow Kingdom buck that trend in the biggest of ways.