¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Clinton Heylin, in his book Recording Sessions, writes that Nashville Skyline could have been an attempt to make John Wesley Harding II. Like Harding, it was recorded in Nashville and used several of the same session musicians.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 But the result had a significantly more country sound, Dylan’s vocals in particular. Dylan said the sweeter-sounding voice was the result of his quitting cigarettes, but clearly there was more to it than that. Dylan obviously consciously chose to sing in a more standard style (something he had done before, well before he became famous).
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 The Johnny Cash-Bob Dylan duet which opens the album offers an instructive contrast between Dylan’s soft, almost New York, lost r’s and Cash’s relatively harder Arkansas r’s, especially on words like “north,” “for,” “there,” “remember,” “fair,” and “hair.” In the balance of the album, “r” is half present at best (“ticket out the door,” “here with you”), gone most of the time. It’s mostly “mah” for “my”, and “ah” is back as “I,” although in a few cases Dylan retains the pure [aI]. Plenty of “oughta,” “whatcha,” “and “by golly.” Dylan sings “I wish the night was here” even where he writes “I wish the night were here.” He appears to be going for a country sound by singing “on” as “awn” (“One More Night”) and “want” as “waunt” (Tell Me It Isn’t True”), but what he shold have done was add a “t” to “across” on “lay across my big brass bed” and converted “window” to “winder” in the first line of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You.”
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 It’s really not a country record. As session man Charlie McCoy said, “I wouldn’t call that a country record. But it wasn’t pop or R&B or anything like that. It had a folk feel to it.” That sounds about right.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Now a country star in his own right, Charlie Daniel’s had some interesting thoughts on the sessions. He said Dylan was “just like everyone else and had a great sense of humor.” He remembers that they had scheduled fifteen sessions but didn’t use them all.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 It was a particularly odd time for the man who was once called the voice of the counter-culture (against his wishes) to release a country-influenced record. The Vietnam War protests were filling the streets, civil leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy had been shot. The Democratic Convention had devolved into violence and anarchy. A weird time to release music aligned with the Richard Nixon-loving right-wingers. His fans didn’t mind apparently as Nashville Skyline became his best selling record.
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 The album played an instrumental part in the adaption of country stylings by many major figures in the world of rock music, most notably The Byrds, pushed in that direction by Gram Parsons. Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, John Hartford, and many other artists would also soon head to Nashville to record.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Country great Johnny Cash sings a duet with Dylan on Girl From the North Country. Dylan and Cash had first met at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. Cash was a big fan. He recorded Don’t Think Twice, It Ain’t Me, Babe and Mama, You’ve Been on My Mind for his 1965 album, Orange Blossom Special.
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 By coincidence, Johnny Cash was recording in the same studio as Dylan in Nashville. The country star dropped by while Dylan was recording Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You and Nashville Skyline Rag. The next day, the two went out for dinner while Johnston prepared the studio to make it look inviting. “While they were gone, I put lights in the studio, made it look like a damn nightclub,” Johnston said. “Set up all the microphones out there, guitars, all of that.” They ended-up recorded eighteen songs together.
¶ 11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Cash won a Grammy Award for the liner notes of Nashville Skyline, which included the lines: “I’m proud to say that I know it/ Here-in is a hell of a poet/ And lots of other things/ And lots of other things.” See the full notes below.
¶ 12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 In my view, it’s a pretty successful record. Yes, a few trite songs. One highly annoying one, Pretty Peggie-O. But it also has several classics or near-classics, such as Lay Lady, Lady, I Threw It All Away, and Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You. The performances are all extremely well-done. And he gets a lot of points for (once again) entering a new frontier and shaking up the world of popular music.
¶ 14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 The records shapeliness comes from the way romantic moods shift between celebrations (“To Be Alone With You”, which he wrote for Jerry Lewis, and “Tonight I’m Staying Here With You,” the record’s closer), entreaties (“Lay, Lady, Lay,” “Tell Me That It Isn’t True”), and morning-afterthoughts (“I Threw It All Away,” “One More Night”).
¶ 15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Dylan, however, never liked it much. He said, “I was trying to grasp for something that would lead me on to where I thought I should be, and it didn’t go nowhere – it just went down, down, down.” (Behind the Shades)