Bob Dylan, "Together Through Life" (Columbia)

For the first time since 1976's "Desire," Dylan has used a co-writer. Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, who worked with him on two songs in 1988, collaborated on all but one of the tracks on Dylan's 33rd studio album (out Tuesday). Don't necessarily read too much into that because "Together" is a raw, rambling affair that sounds like a loose, late-night jam session at a south-of-the-border cantina. David Hidalgo's wheezy accordion defines the Tex-Mex blues sound as much as Dylan's croaky wheeze of a voice.

The bard is mostly singing about America and the dashed dreams of its ordinary people. "Hell's my wife's hometown," he growls to a Willie Dixon beat. "The door has closed forevermore/ If indeed there ever was a door," he concludes on the painful "Forgetful Heart." He sounds more optimistic on the Doug Sahm-evoking "If You Ever Go to Houston," the wistfully romantic waltz "This Dream of You" and the soulful stroll "Feel a Change Coming On." But the latter song features a disturbingly dark line: "Dreams never did work for me anyway/ Even when they did come true." That shot of pessimism sets up the final and most remarkable song, the boogie-lite "It's All Good," a cynical, apocalyptic look at the hell and the hope of Obama's America.

After making two must-have albums in this decade, Dylan has thrown together an erratic, antique-sounding album that is not for casual fans.



Asher Roth, "Asleep in the Bread Aisle" (Universal)

This 23-year-old newcomer does sound like Eminem at times -- not lyrically, but vocally. But after giving the CD a full run, listeners will quickly drop the comparisons. What Roth does best is storytelling: He delivers his thoughts on partying, politics and growing up in suburban Pennsylvania. Tracks such as "His Dream," the funk-soul "Be By Myself" featuring Cee-Lo and the Lupe Fiasco-sounding "Sour Patch Kids" serve as proof.

"Asleep in the Bread Aisle" is not perfect, though. "Blunt Cruisin' " and the lead single, "I Love College," are plain boring. The song channels Roth's time at West Chester University, where he studied elementary education. Future teacher? Probably not. A future in rap? Probably so.