Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline Review

Collaborations with incredible musicians, new directions for a source of music that never stopped giving and a short and sweet stay for Bob Dylan mark Nashville Skyline as an interesting piece. Clocking in at under half an hour and opening with a Johnny Cash piece was as bold then as it is now. But it was bold of Dylan to take a step in a new phase for his lyrical style, of which Nashville Skyline is an unfortunate and tremendously mixed bag. Not everything can be golden, not after such an impressive output before this one, but the new voice of Dylan tries his best to sing of those country pies.

That radical vocal change is an interesting one, primarily because it still has vague pangs of classic Dylan mixed in there. The crooning longevity of a note held for so long, the easy-going poetry of simple guitar strums and lyrics that concern themselves with true loves and all of those country classics. It is no surprise that Girl From the North Country is the best track on the album, pairing Cash and Dylan together must have been a satisfying no-brainer. Two of the greatest voices in music on one record, overlapping one another with great chemistry that lingers on. Unfortunately, after such an incredible opening, it is difficult to rally around some of the weaker songs on this album. Country Pie is the obvious example of that, but even the instrumental brilliance of Nashville Skyline Rag feels like a chaser to the Cash track preceding it more than anything else.

Dylan has the unenviable task of removing some of the more cloying and scattershot tones of the country genre and does so well enough. He still falls toward them at times, but his change in voice and the cultural circumstances of the time mark Nashville Skyline out as an important, interesting piece of the discography. Not essential, but important. Important, because it charts a typical vision for Dylan documented with a new voice and styling that pairs just as nicely as his previous iteration of work. There are still all the hallmarks of protest tracks but done with a country aesthetic, steel guitar and all the hollering necessary for carving out a traditional country setlist. Dylan’s embrace of the country genre comes as a surprise considering how innovative he could be elsewhere, but it is also comforting to hear the subtle changes his style of playing brings to the genre.

The critical reaction of the contemporary times marked Nashville Skyline as Dylan’s best album. It can surely be agreed that it never truly was and never truly will be. It isn’t the dark horse of his discography or an unsung piece of memorabilia that gives goosebumps to the hardcore late-1960s fans. Nashville Skyline is, much like most of Dylan’s albums, worth more than a handful of listens. I Threw it All Away is a traditional Dylan love song but adapted to a new aesthetic, a new sound. It is interesting to hear that style come through, but was anyone hoping he’d stick with that the rest of his career?

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