Dylan’s 80th Birthday, II: Scarlet Rivera Ignites Dylan’s “Hurricane” Anew with Nine Mile Station

Named for a Mojave desert ghost-town,
Nine Mile Station features Will Hawkins & Fernando Perdomo

“I have performed `Hurricane’ many times live,” said Scarlet Rivera, “but have never recorded it with anyone since the original with Bob Dylan until now.”

Now being this moment in time, some 45  years later, into whch Scarlet brings her deep soul to a new “Hurricane,” this one by the great L.A. band Nine Mile Station. Led by vocalist Will Hawkins, the band also features Brendan Vasquez on bass, Nick Moran on drums and our pal Fernando Perdomo on guitar, keys, production and  more.

“With Dylan’s birthday coming up,” said Will Hawkins, “and the ongoing social injustices and abuses occurring at the same time, we thought that `Hurricane’ was the ultimate protest song to bring attention to the fact that not much had really changed since Rubin Carter was falsely imprisoned 45 years ago.”

“In 2019,” Hawkins said, “I watched with awe the incredible musicianship and shaman-esque beauty of Scarlet Rivera in Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue. Soon it came full circle after experiencing Fernando Perdomo’s masterful guitar playing in Jakob Dylan’s Echo in the Canyon. Sitting in those dark theaters I tried to imagine what it would be like to make music with such virtuosos. Now two short years later, that dream comes true.” 

Now Scarlet’s on fire again, sounding somehow even greater than on the original 1976 recording. This electric intensity she summons with an acoustic violin merges ancient strains of klezmer and gypsy street music, forever wedding darkness and light, the deep sorrow of the ages against the new promise of joy in every sunrise and birdsong. Hearing Scarlet sing and soar with on the strings through the exact notes she played on the original is a revelation. Those flights of inspired splendor punctuated the story in real-time–some landing between the cracks rhythmically, some sounding somewhat tentative–but all frozen forever in place with the other songs on Desire.

Now Scarlet has lived with the record for all these years, and has played the song live with Dylan hundreds of times. Now she stays true to the beautiful counter-melodies she composed on the spot in the original session, answering Dylan’s intensity with sumptuous melodics, is a joyful revelation. Her presence of sound and spirit lifts this “Hurricane” into a higher realm. The reverence she has for the song and its songwriter shines in the purity and passion of her playing. It transforms this once timely song about “an innocent man in a living hell”–a real story then unfolding in real-time–into a timeless celebration of the songwriter’s genius in creating something so beautiful and powerful out of the details of a tragedy.

“`Hurricane,’” said Fernando Perdomo, “is the song that made the violin a credible lead instrument on rock radio in 1976,” he said. “Scarlet Rivera’s violin playing on that track set the template for the violin’s role in Americana music for generations to come.”

When we think back to Dylan’s “Hurricane” hitting the radio airwaves in 1976, we remember the intensity of the storyteller and story being told, the dramatic lyrics, like stage directions:

Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night/Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall
She sees a bartender in a pool of blood/Cries out, ‘My God, they killed them all…”

And through it all, underscored by a new wild mercury sound which no longer relied on the potent electric guitar and organ combo that defined his sound during Blonde on Blonde, now found that source of sustained electric energy came from a new, unexpected place. Scarlet. It’s like her soul and Dylan’s locked together that first night, and never came undone. Unlike all the electric guitarists who wove lead lines through his songs but dropped out when he played harmonica, she discovered that she and Dylan could blend harmonica and violin naturally. And the energy of that compounded all of their individual power.

Her inclusion was legend, given it was so wildly random, yet seemed precisely timed by unseen hands, delivering her with violin visible directly into the Greenwich Village streets for their mystic crossing of paths: Dylan in his limo and Scarlet and violin walking. Their intersection occurred like clockwork, as Dylan stopped to talk to her. He invited her to come back to his rehearsal studio to play on new songs which became Desire. She became the siren sound of Rolling Thunder, rocking in white face with her haunting, haunted hybrid of gypsy and Klezmer, perfectly locked into the rolling momentum of the music.

“In 2019,” Hawkins said, “I watched with awe the incredible musicianship and shaman-esque beauty of Scarlet Rivera in Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue. Soon it came full circle after experiencing Fernando Perdomo’s masterful guitar playing in Jakob Dylan’s Echo in the Canyon. Sitting in those dark theaters I tried to imagine what it would be like to make music with such virtuosos. Now two short years later, that dream comes true.” 

Scarlet Rivera & Nine Mile Station, “Hurricane”

Produced by Fernando Perdomo, Will Hawkins and Scarlet Rivera
Mixed and Mastered by Zach Ziskin 

Will Hawkins – Lead and Backing Vocals 
Scarlet Rivera – Violin , Backing Vocals 
Fernando Perdomo – Guitars, Organ, Wurlitzer, Backing Vocals 
Brendan Vasquez – Bass 
Nick Moran – Drums and Percussion 

Recorded at Reseda Ranch Studios

Their mutual friend keyboardist Michael Russeck connected Scarlet and the band. In addition to “Hurricane,” she played on two originals they recorded for their next album, Open Highways, which was mixed by another old pal, the late great Al Schmitt. 

Scarlet told us that once she heard the new record, she was happy to play on it, finding it
“powerful and stunning.”

“The story of the Hurricane,” she said, “and its message of racial injustice and police corruption sadly continues to be as relevant today as it was in 1975.  As always, art conveys truth and opens minds and hearts in a way that no other art form can do.”   

“Scarlet is a national treasure,” said Fernando, “and she inspires us all.”  

Nine Mile Station, the band’s name, was something that Hawkins discovered while perusing old ghost town maps of the Mojave Desert, and found one with Nine Mile Station written on it. “It was an old boom town from the late 1800’s,” Hawkins said, “that literally disappeared off the face of the earth with no trace or remnants. So Nine Mile Station became this amazing place that lived in my imagination that I could escape to when I was down or having a rough time. To me the idea of Nine Mile Station represents freedom, change, reinvention, a full tank of gas and the opportunity to escape and drive into the sunset with a hope of a better tomorrow.”

“It might sound corny to some,” he added, “but after I lost my mom to Alzheimer’s and my career was in shambles, the dream of a Nine Mile Station saved my life on more than one occasion. I think we all need our own Nine Mile Station that echoes in our head and gives us hope and maybe even a little joy.”

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