Thursday, July 31, 2014

Nashville Skyline: Heart of the Country

With Nashville Skyline, Dylan introduced a new sound and voice to the world.  As a follow up to the sublime and nearly impenetrable John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline was straight country.
Released April 9, 1969

The towering influence of Johnny Cash casts a long shadow over Nashville Skyline.  Cash and Dylan recorded several songs together, but only one,"Girl from the North Country,"  appears on the LP. The haunting melody has a deeper remorse than the original on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.  Although their voices hardly harmonize, their iconic combination has a resonance.

Nashville Skyline's an anomaly in Dylan's canon in that's it's short and breezy. The instrumental "Nashville Skyline Rag" creates the right verisimilitude. On "To Be Alone With You" Bob actually sounds. . . happy for once. In "I threw it all Away"  he is once again the all knowing narrator warning listeners not to repeat the mistakes he's made.  "Peggy Day" is a pleasant throwaway.

"Lay Lady Lay" reached #7 on the Billboard charts.  The initial recording of Dylan's solemn love song changed often in live performances, yet never quite captured the magic of the studio take.  A staggering number of artists have performed their own versions ranging from the hardcore metal band Ministry from Cher to Buddy Guy.

And the record cruises along to a pleasant conclusion with "One More Night" and 'Tell Me That it Isn't True","Country Pie" and the excellent closer "Tonight I'm Staying Here With You."

As the 1970s beckoned the musical landscape stood to under go many mutations as audience tastes fragmented.  Rock critics wrote cranky lamentations about the end of rock and roll. With Richard Nixon in the White House, pop culture took comfort in nostalgia to assuage a future of diminished expectations. Others would embrace the decline and make art appropriate for the moment. 

Meanwhile Dylan spent the next few years recording archaic songs, occasionally release new material, raise his family, and dabble in acting.  He chose to remain outside of his time and pretty much stayed on that course all the way to the present.



    Nashville Skyline Cover Posers!