Almanac Music: ‘Red River Shore’ – Bob Dylan


El Paso to Marfa Texas.  September 2022


The drive from El Paso to Marfa in the West Texas desert to the Trans Pecos Festival of Music and Love, is a travelling time of approximately three hours for a distance of over 300 kms. The festival I was travelling to was one of several I attended during a music tour in USA last year.



The wide open highway from El Paso to Marfa Texas. (Image: CGR)



My travelling companion, Brian Wise, selecting from his extensive playlist of thousands of songs provided a joyous means of passing the time, whether chatting about specific songs played, nominating songs to be played, and even, at times, singing along.



Brian makes a selection while I take a  photo. West Texas desert. (Image: CGR)



Brian mentioned a favourite Dylan song he played numerous times on repeat that provided comfort during a previous long drive in the USA. That song was ‘Red River Shore’. Brian played it on repeat a few times making it obvious it was a song he deeply loved. I must admit, ashamedly, that I was not really ‘au fait’ with this particular song. I don’t know why  but probably because it was an outtake from the Time Out Of Mind album sessions and had not appeared on an album until it was released on The Bootleg Series Volume 8: Tell Tale Signs: Rare & Unreleased 1989– 2006  in October 6, 2008.



One of the four versions of ‘Red River Shore’ by Bob Dylan





In the past, Dylan, for whatever reasons, has not included certain recorded tracks on albums from the sessions conducted at the time; ‘Blind Willie McTell’, ‘Positively 4th Street’, and ‘Red River Shore’ readily come to mind as prime examples, with all becoming classics in their own right. Obviously there will be many more classics to be found amongst Bob’s extensive repertoire, and I suppose this is one of the beauties of a ‘Bootleg’  series of demos, outakes, and alternative versions – the discovery of new favourites.





Jump forward four months and I’m taking advantage of a cold, wet summer’s day with a relaxing session listening to music, in particular  Fragments- Time Out Of Mind Sessions (1996-1997): The Bootleg Series Vol.17 .


The playlist is making random selections when ‘Red River Shore’ plays immediately catching my attention, if it needed catching at all! That’s the song Brian repeatedly played travelling on the desert highway in Texas I thought to myself but I wasn’t sure. A quick text message to Brian confirmed it was the song.


There a four different versions of ‘Red River Shore’ on the Fragments … boxed set, and they are all absolute classics – which one Bob would have chosen to include on Time Out Of Mind would have been a difficult decision to make, – perhaps that’s why it’s not there!


Like Brian I was hooked. I played each of the four versions many times at a very loud volume, and they all sounded great. I cannot get over how I’ve missed becoming more familiar with this undoubted classic. Some fabulous players and playing on all the tracks as expected with Bob.


I still cannot make up my mind which version I prefer.


Check out the different versions on the playlist below



Fragments … playlist



More from Col Ritchie can be read Here


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About Colin Ritchie

Retired teacher who enjoys following the Bombers, listening to music especially Bob Dylan, reading, and swimming.


  1. Les Everett says

    Vin Maskell alerted me to this song a few years ago Col. Like you I’d missed it.

    I love Time Out Of Mind and Fragments adds so much to it.

  2. Tell Tale Signs is a magnificent album Col. My favourite of all his bootlegs.

  3. Colin Ritchie says

    Thanks for the comments Les and Ian, I just sit in wonder and awe at times contemplating the creative genius of Bob.

  4. A Stereo Story about Red River Shore, with a little bit of Paul Kelly and Frank Sinatra for good measure:

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