Artist: Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats
Album: A New Music City
Release Date: 06/16/2015
Who knew the session musicians in Nashville were so damn good? Well, it turns out they did.
When Bob Dylan was recording Highway 61 Revisited in New York, his Producer Bob Johnston, a former Nashville resident, suggested he head down south to record his next album. The resulting record, Blonde on Blonde, was not only huge for Dylan, proving to be one of his best, but also for American music at large, helping to spark the rise of the Nashville recording scene.
Another guy who knew how good those session guys, known as the Nashville Cats, were? None other than Johnny Cash. By inviting artists from genres ranging from pop to rock to folk to his national television show, which was shot in Nashville, Johnny introduced the nation to the Music City sound. Many of those artists also ended up coming back into town, recording albums that went on to become big hits.
Now, think about it. Nashville was undoubtedly a very conservative Southern town, but because the caliber of talent in those studios was so high, droves of counter-cultural and anti-establishment artists still flocked there to record, including the aforementioned Bob Dylan, as well as Leonard Cohen, the Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Linda Ronstadt and the Monkees. And let’s not forget Country Joe McDonald, best known for his infamous anti-war song at Woodstock.
That’s the backstory in a nutshell, but what is this album? It’s a companion to the historic exhibit of the same name, on display now at the Country Music Hall of Fame through December 31, 2016. You’ve got some time to make it, but I would absolutely put it on your to-do list.
In the meantime, until you can get down to Music City, this two-disc compilation CD offers great examples of songs recorded by the famous artists I’ve mentioned and plenty more, all backed by those swingin’ Nashville Cats.