'Murder Most Foul' is unexpected and gorgeous

I realize it’s counterintuitive to frame a song about a presidential assassination as a distraction from all the scary news out there, but it’s not every day that Bob Dylan releases new music.

Late last night, Dylan prefaced new song “Murder Most Foul” with this understated note: “Greetings to my fans and followers with gratitude for all your support and loyalty across the years. This is an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting. Stay safe, stay observant and may God be with you. Bob Dylan.”

The beautifully free-flowing track is nearly 17 minutes long, with piano, strings, bowed upright bass, sparse percussion and Dylan’s craggy, speak-sing vocals. It begins as a fairly straightforward narrative: “Twas a dark day in Dallas, November '63/A day that will live on in infamy/President Kennedy was a-ridin’ high/Good day to be livin' and a good day to die.”

But this is Dylan, so of course it touches on way more than JFK’s death. I keep coming back to this section: “What's new, pussycat? What'd I say?/I said the soul of a nation been torn away/And it's beginning to go into a slow decay/And that it's 36 hours past Judgment Day.”

Leave it to Dylan to step back from the current context and trace our national malaise beyond November 2016 and September 2001 to November 1963. Listen below.