Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dylan and John Wesley Hardin(g) (1967)

The thing about Bob Dylan that I've always loved most, is that he always writes traditional music. He writes music for every man and doesn't get caught up in himself or the scene taking place around him. He may be writing about wild, intoxicating tales, but they are always timeless to the point where my grandfather and I would likely connect to them on a similar level.

It was in 1967, in Nashville, that Dylan took a break from electric music and ornamental wordplay to record the stripped down John Wesley Harding. The contrast this album sets against the intricate fancies of his last three 60s electric albums makes this his most traditional album in my opinion. His stories range from the biblical to 19th century western outlaws, and the dark, moral imagery is explained only through lines that are short and to the point. Saying in 1968, "What I'm trying to do now is not use too many words,"Dylan confirms his callback to a simpler, practical writing style. Guthrie has once again become his muse. It is tradition that Dylan always succeeded best with in his music, and he shines telling the tales of western legends of the past with such bare bone verse.

I always tend to wonder what the hell people were thinking of Dylan's career decisions through the late sixties and seventies. With a different vocal style on each album and radical shifts from electric, to folk, to country, and back, people must have been so enthralled and at the same time perplexed at his sheer audacity. He is devout to being a totally enigmatic guy with every chess move in his discography, and this album just blows me away with its interesting location within the game.

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