Bob Dylan and … Nikki Jean?

There was an item on Expecting Rain today, pointing to the website of the songwriter Jimmy Webb, where could be found the following news Mcnugget:

Jimmy co-wrote a track with a new artist named Nikki Jean called “China” – her new CD should be released in March for Universal…we’ll keep you updated – the record label is VERY excited about her! She co-wrote with many great writers for this project, including Bob Dylan!

Who is Nikki Jean, and why would Bob Dylan and other established writers be collaborating with her on what will be her debut album? Your guess is as good as mine, but a few minutes of research reveal that she is a 27 year-old songwriter, born in St. Paul, Minnesota. She has a website and a YouTube channel. Her website indicates that she’s with the Columbia record label, so maybe that has something to do with why Dylan was pulled in to contribute. My guess is merely that they’re trying to create some buzz, but on the other hand I doubt that Dylan would do it for business reasons alone, so presumably he’s of the opinion that she’s got talent. And it appears that she does, indeed.

In other low-key Dylan news, Harold Lepidus has an interview with guitarist Harvey Mandel, of the group Canned Heat, in the wake of Mandel’s special appearance as part of Dylan’s band for the Grammy performance of Maggie’s Farm. Overall, it’s mystifying to me: Why would Dylan specially call on Mandel to fly in and accompany him — along with Stu Kimball, Donnie Herron and Tony Garnier — when there were also about 23 other musicians on stage for the three minute number? (I might be exaggerating but of-course I’m referring to Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers.) I’m darned if I can pick out anything that Mandel is doing in the mix. Perhaps Bob just wanted a certain strength of numbers in his posse, so to speak. And maybe Mandel is a good guy to have around if things get ugly.

And finally I would be remiss not to congratulate Jimmy Webb on being elected “Chairman of the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.” I couldn’t say I’m the biggest Webb fan, but I’m fond of this number (below), as he performs it with someone who belongs in the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, but is unlikely ever to be in it. Blazing talent in itself is not enough to get you into places like that; sometimes it’s not even involved. Good luck to Nikki Jean.

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