Sunday, October 9, 2016

Nashville Skyline (1969)

Nashville Skyline
(1969, Columbia Records)


(Creole Mushroom Soup with extra creole seasoning. Looks more like a pile of corn stew mixed with vomit than a soup, but so it goes. Also, I've had this before, as my Blonde on Blonde will prove.)

Well don't little Bobby Dylan just look like he's havin' the darndest time havin' such a darn good time?

And well, I'll be a raccoon's skinned ass if this ain't the shortest Bob Dylan record he's released to date. I mean, just 3 years ago (in '60s speak) he released rock n roll's FIRST double LP, and here, at under 30 minutes he put out rock's first SoCal hardcore-lengthed country record. Hell, some could call this the first grindcore record minus 110% of the the grindcore.

(not Bob Dylan circa Nashville Skyline)

With John Wesley Harding, Dylan had shed the electric ROCK stigma that had turned his folkies, and probably his folks, against him. Following his "questionable" motorcycle accident, he seemed to get a screw or two knocked loose, or back into place depending on your feelings on brain screws. Dylan had not only shed the electric geetar, but he was playing some rootsy, down-home, deep woods country laced with traces of his folk beginnings. On Nashville Skyline, Dylan reinvented himself, yet again, into a well-oiled, country machine.

Perhaps what's most stark, and talked about, on this record is Dylan's vocals. Is this Bob Dylan at all, or some impostor??? Perhaps fans should have been looking into his post accident "death clues" instead of bothering poor Sir Paul McCartney.... uhhhh, I mean Billy Shears (play your Beatles records backwards, and see what truths you'll find, my friends. It will scare you for eons). But here, in 1969, gone are the days of Bob Dylan slowly morphing into a goat, eating discarded cans of beans on the side of the road and shitting in vast pastures. No, a goat  he is not. Here, Zimmy sounds like he's a deep-voiced country crooner going after the heart of southern belle.

Mind you, this is 1969. Vietnam is raging. The Woodstock music festival is still several months away, and the Hell's Angels are still looking to stab someone during Rolling Stones' songs later in the year at Altamont. Eveyone's favorite punchline, Richard Milieus Nixon, had just taken office a few months prior, and what's America's voice of generation doing? Well, singing lovely little country songs for the teenage public, dontcha know. Oh, Bob. You slay us.

Also, first a second about my meal. I really do apologize, folks. These pictures of my dinners are getting worse and worse. In fact, it's the same picture I've previously used because I ate the whole thing without taking a picture of it this go-round. Regardless, this picture looks more like a punishment than nourishment. It looks like something you wouldn't give a death row inmate who personally wronged you. It looks like the way a lot of people think Self Portrait sounds. But believe you me, this thing is GREAT! So great, I decided to eat it twice. Unlike, Dylan, I do not reinvent my meals, for I am on a budget and needed a good ribsticker of a meal. It's a cream base, with mushrooms, some added carrots, and boat loads of corn mixed with with Creole seasoning. Got a bit of a kick.

So let's kick out the jams, like Bob Dylan should have said at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago if he was still the political leader of the free world.

(Instead, these guys said it followed by the word "m**********r." This is not Dylan or The Band, who are sometimes none to use WORSE language!)

Further more, here's to memories of guerrilla style jungle warfare and widespread LSD droppage. Sit back, relax, and twang away with Bob Dylan ushering out the '60s, Nashville style.  

 Girl From the North Country- Well this one sounds familiar. If you've got half a brain or care as much about Bob Dylan as rock critics of the past 50 years do, you'd know this song like the back of your On the Road paperback. Previously released on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan WAAAAYYY back in '63, here we get a new version of the same song recorded with the Man in Black. No, not Tommy Lee Jones you UFO loving dumbbell. I'm speaking of Johnny Cash. What a beautiful, subtle duet. Guitars and vocals only through most, with a distant snare shuffle in the right speaker. Chilling,  and downright lovely, unlike the Men in Black franchise.

(it is somewhat disputed amongst cirtics: who originally penned the song "Ring of Fire"? Some say Johnny Cash, while others might say TLJ)

Nashville Sklyline Rag- Okay, I didn't mention it during the opener, but it sounds like Dylan's got a meatball stuck in his throat. A real, genuine meatball.
(Exhibit A: Meatball)

On this one, we ain't gotta worry about no meatball sounds, cause Dylan goes instrumental. We got some bass geetar a-bouncin', the harmonica is distant and pleasant, the guitar rambles along. The electric guitar solo is about as enjoyably hayseed as they come. Damn, this is some good stuff, even if I know less about country than I might about folk music. (deduct/add three numerical points for every Dylan song I rank not released from '64-'66).

To Be Alone With You- Ol' Meatball Throat is back. Compared to the balladry of the opener, and the country knee-slapper of the last track, "To Be Alone With You" sounds like outlaw rock! The bass bounces along, the piano's back in the mix boogieing, and the guitar leads prick and prod like a Nashville hornet with shitkickers on. It's a short, good time affair. Can't hate on this, unless your middle name is "Hate." And if it is, your parents are very senseless for naming you that.

Okay, so with my "soup," I gotta say, this is more like a pasty creamed corn nightmare, that I still can't get right. The corn has sucked up all the soup base and turned this into a gluey goodness. I can't get enough of this, but I'd be damned if I were ever to say Welcome to my home. Here eat something to make you feel like you're on skid row. But I'm telling you, one bite and you'd be out of your skull with the flavor of this stuff. Here's a good time to promote Tony Chachere's ORIGINAL Creole Seasoning. It makes life taste better.

(hopefully this Tony Chachere is a fan of Dylan's and will not slap a lawsuit on my front door with his Creole seasoned stained hands).

I Threw It All Away- 4 If this ain't the most beautifully lush song you've ever heard by Bob Dylan, then that's because you heard one of Dylan's other beautifully lush songs. However, this ranks up there with one of the more heartbreaking little ditties. Pensive country, full of reverb, regret, and hushed organ trills of pain.

(what it looks like when you literally "throw it all away." Not so pleasant now, is it Zimmy?)

Peggy Day- Whimsical guitar ushers us in and off we go into the golly-gee, doggone, bygone days of yore. One cheesy affair that hasn't aged well, as a whole bunch of Dylan disciples cribbing on The Basement Tapes and this very LP went on to make a stupid career out of music like this. Mostly, I'm referring to a band called The Band.

("Am I cool yet?" - the credo of Robbie Robertson, the man with a dumb name).

Lay Lady Lay-
So, by the power of Wikipedia, I have found out that the aforementioned, Tony Chachere, of Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning died in 1995, so hopefully his estate will not sue me. It is also safe to say he is currently not reading this. Thank you for your seasoning and contributions to the culinary world, Tony Chachere of Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning. I hope you were a decent person who liked to season the night away while listening to Nashville Skyline.

Okay, this one of Dylan's most covered, and famous, songs according to my friend Justim who works at the Library of Congress. Justim knows everything. Anyway, everything about this song is subtle and essential. The percussion, the sparse bass root notes, the distant pedal steel. The entire song's mostly constructed of longer verses drilled home by the unexpectedly short choruses. Dylan sounds upfront in the mix, as if alone in an auditorium while the band (not The Band), plays somewhere behind the curtains. Haunting.  As for my friend Justim? Well, I just made him up. Who's named Justim anyway? I know! The guy I made up named Justim, as in "Justim-agine if I had a friend named Justim who worked at the Library of Congress."
(Additionally, "Lay, Lady. Lay," may be a common phrase uttered by insensitive, short tempered, sexist chiropractors across America. May we revoke their license to practice).

One More Night- Dylan, for a split second, sounds like the Dylan of old... but only for approximately the first syllable of the song. Mighty quickly, the meatball goes back down in the windpipe and our New York City coffeehouse hustler is transformed back into Nashville's lost prophet. Forget the voice, how 'bout the song? It's a bouncy, gospel-like affair. Catchy, with repeating phrases, just in the way gospel songs usually are. What do I know about gospel music? Not much, I'd say. Fortunately, this song's about longing for further correspondences withs someone between the sheets, rather than a song about Jesus, so it's highly enjoyable. Short and fun, just like Bob Dylan.

(Speaking of short, Bob "Zimmy" Dylan is said to be 5'7'' tall, but according to this picture he appears to be between 3 and 4 feet tall. We may never know).

Tell Me That it Isn't Over- This short number combines some of the best of electric Dylan style with new country Dylan. It sort of has a looser Blonde on Blonde feel, but it's wholly country in sound and approach. The repeating, one-note guitar interludes are so simple and infectious, just like the stuff boiling over on "Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)" off B on B.

Okay, I've scraped the bottom of the damn pot for the last delectable drops of this Creole Corn soup nonsense. I'm telling you; 5 stars. Do not judge my (stock) picture, for it does not tell the whole story. In fact,  it tells a completely different story, and I deserve to be judge harshly. Damn.

Country Pie- This song clocks in at 1:35 which is the shortest Dylan song ever released... I'll check on that. Sounds like a Paul McCartney song via The White Album or Side 2 of Abbey Road. Silly little ditty to make you smile from ear to meatball licking ear. That sentence might sound kind of stupid, but then so does this song in general.

Also, Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning is like liking a salt block in hell. My god, I think I'll be using a trough tonight when I wake up every 10 minutes from dehydration.

(me at 5 am, trying to cure the Tony Chachere's Creole madness)

Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You- Has that '70s country-roots-rock feel to it before that feeling was everywhere. Mind you, it's still the '60s at this point. So, I'll give Bob Dylan a pass on this, along with most of The Basement Tapes which I'll be reviewing later in a fallout shelter (the ultimate basement). Mid-tempo piano driven country-rock. The drums are tight, the pedal steel is humming, the bass grooves... uh, groovin' (a word in which autocorrect insisted I was writing "groin"). Dylan creates a clear narrative about as far from his days of poetic acid tripping in '65 as one can get. Thanks for the clarity, Zimmy.

And just like that, Dylan goes country. And now it's all behind us. How 'bout that, y'all?!? Yee-haw. Please remove yourself's from your Own Private Grand Ole Opry, and proceed to the exits.

NEXT WEEK, stay tuned for, perhaps, Bob Dylan's most hated album of his career, if not his most notorious. So horrifying, it can only be fit to print just in time for Halloween, right as all the leaves fall from the trees and die! That's right folks. I'm talkin' the 24 track, career suicide, double LP Self Portrait. Hang on to your hats, prep your nooses, and see y'all next week.

(possibly taken at a Self Portrait listening party)


  1. Glad to see that you were kind to this delightful little dittie. I have long thought that ALL of Dylan's albums should be titled simply "Another Side of Bob Dylan, Volume XX", and this one is a good case in point. Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait are both clear attempts to shed a particular audience - but why the critics mostly liked this one while treating Self Portrait with outrage and hate, is still a mystery to me.

    I am a fan of Dylan's "meatball" voice (a vegan meatball, I assume?). People who heard him sing back in his Minnesota days often claim that this is, in fact, Dylan's original singing voice... and that the nasal whine we all know and (some of us) love was something acquired later in the NYC folk scene.