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Bob Dylan

Travelin' Thru The Bootleg Series Vol. 15 1967-1969 featuring Johnny Cash – 2019 (Sony Legacy)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Bob Dylan

All these many years later, Bob Dylan 'bootleg' songs are still better than many intentional studio releases from other artists. Although some might have been shocked at the time to learn of Dylan's sojourn south to Nashville (the unofficial home of country music), he and Johnny Cash formed a kind of mutual admiration society together in the studio. Discs two and three, then, may be of most interest to country music fans. Dylan and Cash sing some of Johnny's biggest songs together, including "I Still Miss Someone," "Big River" and "Five Feet High and Rising."

Although Dylan was even then being vaunted as a sort of voice for his generation at the time, Dylan had clearly entered Cash's world. Many of the more rocking sessions feature long-time Cash bassist Marshall Grant and fellow Sun Records rockabilly icon, Carl Perkins, rockabilly-ing on guitar. They even have a go at Perkins' "Matchbox." The third (and last) disc includes recordings from The Johnny Cash Show, tracked in 1969 at the Ryman Auditorium and featuring Charlie Daniels' electric guitar. This concluding CD also finds Dylan doing the instrumental "Nashville Skyline Rag," which also appeared on Dylan's "Nashville Skyline" album, recorded with Earl Scruggs and sons.

This set's first compact disc is taken from the "John Wesley Harding" sessions. The blues of "Western Road," exemplifies and serves notice how this disc is less country than the other two. It's a joy to hear an alternate version of "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine," one of his best songs from period, and a differing take on the familiar "All Along the Watchtower." There's another version of "Lay Lady Lay," sporting Dylan's sexiest vocal ever. Lastly, Dylan's "Ring of Fire" is cool and original, including plunking piano and stuttering electric guitar.

You don't need to dig deeply into this bootleg set to appreciate why some super fans have written theses on Bob Dylan. Crazies have even dug through Dylan's trash for a few discarded, star-associated treasures(?). There's absolutely no trash here, though, to be sure.