Bob Dylan
Nashville Skyline


3.5
great

Review

by JamieTwort USER (35 Reviews)
July 13th, 2014 | 53 replies


Release Date: 1969 | Tracklist


“This man can rhyme the tick of time
The edge of pain, the what of sane
And comprehend the good in men, the bad in men
Can feel the hate of fight, the love of right
And the creep of blight at the speed of light
The pain of dawn, the gone of gone
The end of friend, the end of end […]
Here-in is a hell of a poet
And lots of other things”

– Johnny Cash on Bob Dylan

The above liner notes that adorn the sleeve of Dylan’s 1969 album, Nashville Skyline, describe very poetically the essence of Bob Dylan as a song writer and an artist. To many Dylan has always been a poet first and a musician second but one thing that makes Johnny Cash’s liner notes here so intriguing is that they appear in the context of an album to which this is perhaps the least applicable, making the last line in some ways the most fitting. Nashville Skyline is an album that arguably represents Dylan at his least poetic and most musically polished and accomplished, seeing the singer-songwriter adopt a traditional country music style that was hinted at on previous album, John Wesley Harding. Vocally this album finds Dylan embracing a soft country-style croon that is considerably easier on the ear than his usual vocal delivery and despite lacking the emotional intensity of some of his less-reserved vocal performances makes for a pleasant and fitting change.

In addition to penning the album’s liner notes, Johnny Cash also features as a guest on opening track “Girl From the North Country”, a song that originally appeared on Dylan’s second album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. This album’s rendition certainly doesn’t eclipse the original but it does offer a slightly different take on the song that makes what some might consider a needless rehash, an interesting remake. The combination of Dylan’s new-found gentle croon and the unmistakable voice of Johnny Cash works surprisingly well, whilst musically the song has a warmer feel to it than the original which works in its favour, especially within the context of the rest of the album which has a similarly warm atmosphere throughout. Despite the unavoidable, niggling query as to why a songwriter of Dylan’s pedigree would open an album with a remake of a previously released album track, the song is one of the highlights on Nashville Skyline, which you could argue says more about the album as a whole than it does about “Girl From the North Country”.

There’s no denying that the song writing on Nashville Skyline isn’t as strong as it had been on previous albums but it’s obvious that the album was never meant to be a showcase of Dylan’s lyrical flare, rather the sound of a man dipping his toes into the comfortably warm waters of a sound that felt right at the time. Song’s such as “I Threw It All Way” and “Tell Me That it isn’t True” find Dylan creating simple country ballads that whilst on the face of it appear rather unremarkable, are actually surprisingly infectious and emotionally engaging. The most memorable song on the album comes in the form of the beautiful Lay Lady Lay, a song which displays the album’s more refined song writing approach at its best and finds Dylan’s new-found vocal style at its most emotive. It’s during these slower, more emotional songs that the album really shines, displaying Dylan’s take on country music at its most successful.

The album is let down slightly by the more upbeat, jovial songs which don’t particularly play to Dylan’s strengths. The likes of Peggy Day and Country Pie aren’t weak per se but they lack any real memorable melody and fall somewhat short in the song writing department. On the other hand no song on Nashville Skyline ever sounds forced and despite often straying far from Dylan’s usual formula everything feels very natural, even “Nashville Skyline Rag”, an all instrumental piece (a rarity for Dylan) feels genuine and spontaneous and only suffers due to its rather awkward placement on the album.

Throughout Nashville Skyline Dylan shows his competence as a musician, sounding more than comfortable playing a style that is somewhat removed from his usual stripped back folk sound or his blues based electric material. In many ways it’s the album’s focus on Dylan’s musical qualities that makes Nashville Skyline such an interesting listen. For once his lyrics aren’t consistently the centre of attention, often playing second fiddle to the musicianship and more basic, less poetic song-craft. Whilst nothing on Nashville Skyline can hold a candle to Dylan’s best works it is nonetheless a refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable album that shows a different side to Dylan that has rarely been heard, and while there is no doubting that Dylan is indeed a hell of a poet, this album puts emphasis on the fact that he is also lots of other things.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
JamieTwort
July 13th 2014


26988 Comments


Frippertronics requested (or rather made the suggestion) that I reviewed this due to the other review bring "outdated" in style, so here it is.

Chrisjon89
July 13th 2014


3833 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

good review man. spent about 10 seconds wondering why I couldn't vote pos.



haven't heard this in full but love his vocals on Lay Lady Lay. got a hold of the Bootleg Series Vols 1-3 earlier this year which is varying levels of awesome.

JamieTwort
July 13th 2014


26988 Comments


Thanks man. Haha yeah I'm a contrib now :]

It's definitely well worth hearing as your a Dylan fan and his vocals are definitely one of the most refreshing things about this album.

BigPleb
July 13th 2014


59909 Comments


Great review as usual and nice to see you writing again after what seems like an eternity!

Never checked any Dylan, where would you recommend starting?

JamieTwort
July 13th 2014


26988 Comments


Thanks Pleb.

I'd suggest starting with Blood on the Tracks as it's his best in my opinion but Highway 61 Revisited would also be a good starting point.

Chrisjon89
July 13th 2014


3833 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i'll check it. think I'm only missing his debut, Another Side and this one from the 60s. i wanna get into more of his stuff from the 90s til now too. only got Tempest and the vocals are a big hurdle for me on that but some good songs there.

tommygun
July 13th 2014


26970 Comments


VOICE LIKE SAND AND GLUE

HERE SHE COMES HERE SHE COMES HERE SHE COMES AGAIN

DOO DOO DOO

nice one jamie

InfamousGrouse
July 13th 2014


4339 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

need to check more of his post-Desire releases in general tbh



think this is the only big 60s dylan release I don't have

BMDrummer
July 13th 2014


14646 Comments


Good review, someone should review the s/t though

Chrisjon89
July 13th 2014


3833 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

InfamousGrouse, yeah aside from the Bootleg Series 1-3 which spans '61-'91, there's a hole in my Dylan collection from Desire until Tempest. some of the 80s songs sound like bludgers. average songs with 80s drum sounds. Blind Willie McTell being a big exception. but I've heard great things about Time Out Of Mind and some of the later albums

JamieTwort
July 13th 2014


26988 Comments


Thanks guys.

think I'm only missing his debut, Another Side and this one from the 60s. i wanna get into more of his stuff from the 90s til now too. only got Tempest and the vocals are a big hurdle for me on that but some good songs there.


Another Side of Bob Dylan is a great album.

Even though Dylan is like my second favourite artist of all time I have to confess I'm not that familiar with much of his post-Desire material.

Chrisjon89
July 13th 2014


3833 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i'm like that with alot of artists really lol Dylan, Miles, Bowie, Neil Young, Floyd...



alright, those will be my next three - this, Another Side Of Bob Dylan and Time Out Of Mind.

Nagrarok
July 13th 2014


8602 Comments


Great work here Jamie, I think your writing has kept on improving. For all his worldwide renown, Dylan has never really clicked with me. Blood on the Tracks is a fantastic album though. Some day I'll no doubt have another go at his material.

JamieTwort
July 13th 2014


26988 Comments


Thanks Nag, I appreciate it.

I can understand why his music might not click with some people but as far as song writers go I'm not sure there's anyone better.

Nagrarok
July 13th 2014


8602 Comments


Ian Anderson? XD

manosg
Staff Reviewer
July 13th 2014


11745 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"Girl from the North Country", "Lay Lady Lay" and Dylan's voice are the things that I enjoy on this album. However, I'm not very fond of the increased country influences on this one or the songwriting. Still an enjoyable listen though.



Great review Jamie as well.

Digging: Sarke - Gastwerso

JamieTwort
July 13th 2014


26988 Comments


Ian Anderson? XD


Anderson would have to be my personal favourite but I still often think of Dylan as the best (if that makes sense). Those two and Leonard Cohen are the big 3 when it comes to lyrics for me, no one else comes close.


Thanks manosg. I can understand your views on the album and to some extent I agree.

LambsBread
July 13th 2014


6523 Comments


I've heard The Freewheelin Bob Dylan, The Times are Changin, and Blood on the Tracks


Didn't care too much for any of it besides Blood on the Tracks which is Godly

should I listen to this next? or...

manosg
Staff Reviewer
July 13th 2014


11745 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'd say go for Highway 61 Revisited first and then Blonde on Blonde.

JamieTwort
July 13th 2014


26988 Comments


No I'd say listen to something like Bringing It All Back Home next to hear the progression from those earlier albums (Freewheelin' and Times). Bringing It All Back Home is the album where he first went electric (although the best songs are arguably the acoustic based ones) and is an essential Dylan album. The two after that are essential too, far more so than this. Once you've heard those I'd say this and John Wesley Harding would then be good places to go.



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