When the names Dylan and Cash are mentioned in an album’s title together, there’s a certain high expectation to the musical content inside. But this title is a little misconceiving; it’s not just songs from the two greats, but kind of an amalgamation of songs who at some point have come under the Nashville banner. The session musicians The Nashville Cats play a big part here, as well as pop, folk, country and rock classics from various artists from around the same time.
There’s a lot of varying material, but it all comes together, creating a pleasant accompaniment to the exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame, of which it was built around. Dylan’s slurring and snarling vocals kick us off with the ever-enlightening Absolutely Sweet Marie, and gets your juices flowing for the mayhem and genius country-tinged tracks to come. This is closely followed by Cash’s cover of Dylan’s It Ain’t Me Babe, which, if you haven’t heard it, is a master class in changing style but keeping all of the sentiment of the original.
The two legend’s tracks and appearances are littered throughout, but where the album really stands out, is its use of other musicians songs, and the way they are perfectly set out, and picked at a certain time for a certain reason; this helps create an album feel rather than just a compilation. Simon and Garfunkel’s harrowing The Boxer is gently brought down to earth Area Code 615’s bluesy Stone Fox Chase, whereas two former band mates in The Beatles have solo tracks plonked right next to each other, with George Harrison’s Behind That Locked Door and Ringo Starr’s Beaucoups of Blues. George’s sweet harmonies and insightful lyrics sit pleasantly against Ringo’s upbeat tempo song of love and retribution, and actually create a sense of togetherness when heard next to each other.
There are so many gems on this double record, and it’s testament to the team that put it together. Take The Beau Brummels’ Turn Around for example; a gentle reminder of a band mixing West Coast sounds with Country to perfection; many would have forgotten this track, and it’s also a perfect reintroduction to people who’ve never heard of them. And then there’s the Byrd’s You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere; this is Nashville embodied. Of course the record wouldn’t be complete without the classic Dylan and Cash version of Girl From The North Country, setting Dylan’s chameleon change of vocals in his later career against Cash’s deep groan to perfection and showing that two legends can create something special and memorable together.
Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats is how a companion piece should be; it hasn’t been cobbled together, but nurtured and cared for. You can tell every track is there for a reason, in its right place, at its right time. Nashville is showing you here just why the name is associated with music the world over, and it’s a genuine pleasure to listen to.