Coming after the deep symbolism and biblical content of many of the ballads on John Wesley Harding, this album was dismissed at the time by some as 30 minutes of country fluff. Concerned with the lyrics that were light as air, critics missed the artistry of the music and the playing on the record.
In the 60's, Dylan always had the best backing available on his albums. Whether it was Mike Bloomfield on Highway 61 Revisited or the best Nashville had to offer on Blonde On Blonde, John Wesley Harding and this album, Bob's songs were always helped along by the talent of the players at the session.
From the first notes of the blues/country piano on To Be Alone With You, the band of Norman Blake and Charlie Daniels (guitar), Pete Drake (steel guitar), Bob Wilson (piano), Charlie McCoy (bass), and Kenny Buttrey (drums) are in top form. Listen to Pete Drake's gorgeous steel guitar on Lay Lady Lay. Other than the playing of Don Helms on those Hank Williams classics, these opening steel licks may be the most famous in the history of the instrument. In the 60's, Drake was the man for steel guitar in Nashville. His playing on this album showcases his enormous talent.
On Tell Me That It Isn't True, Drake's steel accents blend nicely with the lead guitar. The piano again takes the lead at the beginning of Tonight I'll Be Staying With You, but it is the steel guitar that builds the sound at the end of the break. The rhythm section of McCoy and Buttrey puts a solid base under every cut on the album.
As I listened the other night, I thought this album may not be getting the recognition it deserves. Dust off your copy or head over to iTunes and give it another spin. When you do, listen carefully to the band. They can really play.