Many of the songs on both Nashville Skyline and New Morning find Dylan singing the praises of the simple life of the country, surrounded by friends and family. Take, for example, To Be Alone With You, another song from this time period. There’s nothing in those lyrics to suggest that Dylan is not altogether satisfied with his workaday existence as long as he has his woman waiting for him at home.
This alll seems to be a bit too easy. It seems he’s trying to convince himself this new lifestyle is just fine and dandy. Time Passes Slowly seems proof that all might not really be so perfect.
Time passes slowly up here in the daylight
We stare straight ahead and try so hard to stay right
Like the red rose of summer that blooms in the day
Time passes slowly and fades away
“We stare straight ahead and try so hard to stay right” sounds like something a man who is about to bolt off the porch and catch the next train to the big city. Which Dylan will do shortly. He said once about this period, “I went into the bucolic and mundane as far as possible.” By the time of the writing of Time Passes Slowly, it seems he had about reached the breaking point.
The sound on this number is not Dylan at his best. The vocal is abrasive, and not in a good way. I usually like his piano playing, but on this not so much.
A version with George Harrison appears on Another Self-Portrait.