Following up John Wesley Harding, Bob Dylan continues to move in a country direction with Nashville Skyline. This is shown right away on the remake of his own song, “Girl From The North Country” with the man in black himself, Johnny Cash. The track shows Dylan’s country voice that he will use throughout the album. “One More Night” may be the most straight up country sounding song on the album, a lonesome and spiritual song taking place under the moon and stars.
50’s rockers influence the sound on “Peggy Day” and “To Be Alone With You” where Dylan sings, “they say the nighttime is the right time/to be with the one you love”. There are two standouts on Nashville Skyline, that don’t include Johnny Cash, the first is “I Threw It All Away”. A beautiful, melancholy melody carries the song, with organ tones just below the surface. Dylan sings “I must have been mad/I never knew what I had/Until I threw it all away”.
The second classic is one of his most popular, “Lay Lady Lay”. The almost mournful tune, sees Dylan use the lower register of his voice, creating a distinctly new sound. Drummer Kenny Buttrey uses both bongos and a cowbell for a unique drum pattern on the verses. The track has been covered numerous times and has a lot in common with the alt country sound of the 90s, including R.E.M’s Out of Time album. The song would be his last top ten hit.
Nashville Skyline is a unique album (thus far) in Bob Dylan’s catalogue. It sounds like he’s strumming out songs on a porch with producer Bob Johnston, guitarist Charlie McCoy, and Charlie Daniels on bass among others. Here he sounds free from being the voice of his generation which produces a lighter batch of songs, ones that sound effortless like closing track “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”. At just 27 minutes, Nashville Skyline breezes along the country roads.