Jakob Dylan's Wallflowers Still Connecting With Classics

The Wallflowers haven't released a new album since 2012's "Glad All Over." That doesn't keep singer-songwriter Jakob Dylan from playing shows.

"I'm just always playing, sometimes for stretches of weeks or months, sometimes just a few days," Dylan says. "I can pick and choose."

The Wallflowers, who'll perform at Toyota Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford on Saturday, Aug. 27, had hits in the mid-'90s with "6th Avenue Heartache," "The Difference," and especially classic-rock radio staple "One Headlight," all of which appeared on "Bringing Down the Horse," an album that turns 20 this year.

Blues Traveler, another roots-rock group with '90s cred, is scheduled to play the Oakdale show (lead singer/harmonica virtuoso John Popper recently underwent emergency surgery). G. Love and Special Sauce and Howie Day are also on the bill.

Dylan, 46, the youngest child of Bob Dylan and Sara Lownds, formed the Wallflowers in the late 1980s with guitarist Tobi Miller. The first lineup released a self-titled album in 1992.

Soon after, Dylan, keyboardist Rami Jaffee and some notable guests (Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell, drummer Matt Chamberlain, Jayhawks singer Gary Louris and others) entered sessions with producer T-Bone Burnett; "Bringing Down the Horse," released in 1996, reached the fourth-highest spot on the Billboard 200 and yielded four hit singles.

Two decades later, nearly half of the songs on "Horse" still find their way into current Wallflowers set lists.

"I don't know why some records translate to lots of people and some don't," Dylan says. "The songs connected with people, and good records begin with good songs. That's never going to change. Those songs reached a lot of people."

Three more studio albums — "Breach," "Red Letter Days" and "Rebel, Sweetheart" — followed in the 2000s. Band members came and went. Dylan recorded two solo albums: 2008's "Seeing Things" and "Women + Country," from 2010.

"Glad All Over," the last Wallflowers record, featured a guest appearance by Mick Jones of the Clash. For part of the album, Dylan experimented with group songwriting, bringing in pages of lyrics instead of completed songs.

"Some of the guys I'd played with over the years came back, and everybody collectively wanted to try something a little different," Dylan says. "That's not necessarily something that I would do again without it having presented itself as creatively a good idea. There's no reason to do that just because people want to do that. It has to be for the better of what you're all doing."

Jaffee and two other longtime players, guitarist Stuart Mathis and bassist Greg Richling, parted ways with Dylan when the album cycle ended. Dylan now tours with a backing band of Nashville musicians.

"I can't tell exactly where it's going to settle," he says. "If I was making a record right now, I'd probably have more of an idea. But a lot of people can play these songs and I think it's always getting better and better, if you were going to ask me."

Instead of working up new Wallflowers material, Dylan is recording a set of California-based songs from 1965, with Beck, Neil Young, Norah Jones, Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and others — a break, he says, from the "treadmill of having to express yourself every year." The project has since morphed into a film.

"Twenty-five years later, you're bound to hit an impasse: What do I want to sing about this year? I took the chance to sing some other people's songs with some cool people," Dylan says.

Through all the lineup changes and recording-industry shifts, Dylan still enjoys performing.

"Those two hours on stage is a high-wire act," he says. "You win big and you lose big. That's different than making records and sitting around and talking about things all day long. It's an in-the-moment type of thing, which is very unique."

The demands of touring, he adds, are partly responsible for the changes in the Wallflowers.

"Some people just grow out of it. I haven't, and I don't plan to. … A lot of people don't want to travel. You're just constantly traveling, and you're seeing new people and places every day. A lot of people want the same routine every day. I don't."

Through it all, Dylan's not one to pine for the good old days.

"When we made ['Bringing Down the Horse'], we didn't sit around talking about how successful the group could or couldn't be. We were just excited to make a new record and keep moving forward. There's a lot of freedom in that. ... There was a certain point when that record seemed to belong to everyone but us. You feel like you're along for that ride, and you lose a bit of control."

THE WALLFLOWERS perform with Blues Traveler, G. Love and Special Sauce and Howie Day at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford on Aug. 27 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $38-$48. oakdale.com.

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