Don't be misled by the word 'tribute'. Although the phrase "tribute band" can mean a slavish facsimile or a big-name cash-in, The Dylan Project is far more than a mere copycat act. The members bring their own distinctive take on the music, Steve Gibbons interprets the lyrics with stylish individuality and, above all, respect for a master writer and performer shines through every word, every note. As Mojo's reviewer said: "The Dylan Project is a tribute in the best possible sense. Touching and deftly handled, it makes you marvel, once again, at the scope and majesty of this singular writer's work."
There is so much to relish in the Dylan Project. For a start there's the laconic and charismatic Steve Gibbons, sounding uncannily like Dylan while retaining his own inimitable vocal style. As well as Steve's homage to Dylan himself, the Project's musicians are equally fine interpreters of the virtuosity of The Band. There's PJ Wright's scintillating slide and haunting pedal steel; on the first studio album Simon Nicol adds compelling rhythm guitar and fine backing vocals; Dave Pegg bringing his beautifully subtle and powerful bass lines, and Gerry Conway holding the whole groove with a tour de force on drums and percussion. As a bonus on Dylan Project Live At Cropredy Festival (the second album) John 'Rabbit' Bundrick's keyboards commemorate the characteristic quality which Garth Hudson's organ brought to Dylan's mid-period, now provided live by Phil Bond's piano, organ and accordion work.
This musical cornucopia arose from an after-gig chat between Steve Gibbons and Dave Pegg when the conversation turned to Dylan. "One thing led to another," recalls Steve, "and Bob's your uncle –Peggy's offer of his services was just the spur I needed to do what I had long been considering, an album of Bob Dylan songs."
That album, The Dylan Project, was recorded at Woodworm's studio in Oxfordshire, produced by Peggy and released in 1998. As well as Steve, PJ, Peggy, Simon and Gerry, there are guest contributions from Chris Leslie, Ric Sanders, Maartin Allcock, Ben Bennion, and Mick Bullard.
But The Dylan Project is more than a studio ensemble. Since its inception, the band has been entertaining audiences with an electrifying stage show. As well as touring UK arts centres, concert halls and theatres, The Dylan Project has played in Europe and appeared at festivals large and small – including Cropredy of course.