Bob Dylan emerged as such a commanding musical and cultural force three decades ago that almost every singer-songwriter who has since demonstrated an ounce of commentary or potential has been touted as "the young Dylan."
Finally, there's a singer-songwriter in rock who can one who can really make the claim: Jakob Dylan.
The 22-year-old son of the tousle-haired troubadour, Jakob is the voice of the Wallflowers, a Los Angeles band whose debut album will be released Aug. 24 by Virgin Records. A single, "Ashes to Ashes," is due a week earlier.
And what of the young Dylan?
Physically, he's the spitting image of his father at the same age--right down to the tousled hair. As a writer, Jakob has got a way with words that can rightly be termed Dylanesque , though his images, vocals and melodies are probably closer to former Dylan protege Robbie Robertson's territory.
And, by all accounts, he's got that Dylan aura. Where Dylan pere invented a history for himself when he first went to New York, Dylan fils , whose mother Sarah was divorced from Bob in 1977, is keeping his close to his vest, even to those who are responsible for boosting his career.
"He's keeping it mysterious," says Virgin co-chairman Jeff Ayeroff. "If you were brave enough to be Bob Dylan's son and put a record out, somewhere in the back of your mind you must know you're good."
Young Dylan is clearly wary of press attention--perhaps he has a right to be, given the slanted scrutiny that has come to the likes of Ziggy Marley, Julian Lennon, Wilson Phillips and other superstar progeny. As such, he's shying away from interviews at this time, preferring to wait until the album is released.
"He wants people to talk about the music, and not his lineage," says a source close to the band. "At this point what is anyone going to want to talk about besides who his father is?"
But a few things are known:
The Wallflowers isn't the first band Jakob's been involved with. As a teen, he played with an outfit called Trash Matinee, playing guitar on one cut and co-writing another on the group's lone release, a 1987 indie EP. Not long after that, he and some friends began to play together in what evolved into the Wallflowers, which also includes guitarist Tobi Miller, keyboardist Rami Jaffee, drummer Peter Yanowitz and bassist Barrie McGuire (no relation to "Eve of Destruction" singer Barry).
For the last couple of years, the group has been part of a mini-scene of young, earnest L.A. bands, along with the Freewheelers (whose Dylan influence is in its name) and Tongues and Tails, that play regularly at Canter's delicatessen's Kibbitz Room on Fairfax Avenue.
Along the way the group came to the attention of manager Andy Slater, who has worked with the likes of Don Henley, Warren Zevon and the Beastie Boys.
Slater talked the reluctant band into recording a demo tape, played it for Ayeroff and other record company executives and a deal with Virgin was struck. And now all are holding their breaths to see if the Wallflowers can be taken on musical, not name value.