The latest chapter in Columbia/Legacy's highly acclaimed Bob Dylan Bootleg Series revisits Dylan's pivotal musical journeys to Nashville, from 1967 to 1969, focusing on previously unavailable recordings made with Johnny Cash and unreleased tracks from the John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, and Self Portrait sessions.
Disc One of Travelin' Thru, 1967 - 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 15 finds Dylan in Columbia's Studio A in Nashville recording alternate versions of compositions written for John Wesley Harding (October 17 and November 6, 1967) and Nashville Skyline (February 13-14, 1969) while introducing a new song "Western Road" (a Nashville Skyline outtake).
Discs Two and Three of Travelin' Thru are centered around Dylan's collaborations with American music icon Johnny Cash including the much sought-after Columbia Studio A sessions and on-stage performances at the Ryman Auditorium (May 1, 1969) for the recording of the premiere episode of The Johnny Cash Show (originally broadcast on ABC-TV on June 7, 1969).
Disc Three closes with tracks recorded on May 17, 1970 with Grammy Award-winning bluegrass banjo legend Earl Scruggs for the PBS television special, "Earl Scruggs: His Family and Friends" (originally aired January 1971).
1967 saw a profound and surprising transformation in Bob Dylan's musical evolution. With contemporary pop culture becoming increasingly baroque, surreal and psychedelic in the wake of Dylan's 1965-66 cutting edge trilogy, Bringing It All Back Home/Highway 61 Revisited/Blonde On Blonde, the artist withdrew from public view following a motorcycle accident in July 1966. He'd recorded Blonde On Blonde with a full-band in Nashville in February 1966 but, when it came time to record its follow-up in the fall of 1967, he opted for a simple trio-Dylan (guitar, vocals, harmonica), Charlie McCoy (bass) and Kenneth Buttrey (drums)-to create a sublime minimal sound.
In his liner notes for Travelin' Thru, Colin Escott writes, "Talking to journalist Matt Damsker about the sound of John Wesley Harding, Dylan said, 'I didn't know how to record the way other people were recording, and I didn't want to... I just didn't think all that production was necessary.' He also went for lyrical economy.'What I'm trying to do now is not use too many words,' he said. 'There's no line you can stick your finger through. There's no blank filler.'"
Dylan returned to Columbia Studio A in February 1969 to work on Nashville Skyline.
"Bob asked me to be a guest on the album," Johnny Cash said later, "and I went to the studio and they just turned on the recorder for about two hours." Columbia Studio A hosted two Dylan-Cash sessions: February 17 and 18, 1969 with a band that included rock 'n' roll pioneer Carl Perkins playing guitar on six tracks (including his own composition, "Matchbox"). One of the more intriguing sonic discoveries on Travelin' Thru is "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright/Understand Your Man," as two singular singer/songwriters pay mutual compositional and vocal tribute to each other.
The full-day Dylan-Cash duet session included the first known version of "Wanted Man" and the only version of the song ever sung by Dylan. The following week, Cash made it the opening song at his San Quentin concert. The session provides insight into the shared sensibilities of Dylan and Cash through a variety of covers including two Jimmie Rodgers medleys.
When The Johnny Cash Show was scheduled to debut in June 1969, the host offered Bob Dylan a guest slot on the first show. In the days before and after The Johnny Cash Show taping, Dylan was working on the album that emerged more than a year later as Self Portrait. For the May 3 Self Portrait session, guitarist Fred Carter was brought in to augment Dylan's usual Nashville band. The "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Ring of Fire" recorded that day are available for the first time on Travelin' Thru.
Although only one duet with Johnny Cash ("Girl from the North Country") appears on Dylan's original Nashville Skyline album, Cash penned the album's Grammy Award-winning liner notes. A month after Nashville Skyline was released, Dylan made his first live TV appearance in five years on The Johnny Cash Show; that performance is also included here.
"In February 1969, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash holed up in a Nashville studio for two days of loose, free-flowing sessions where they sang each other's songs, jammed with rockabilly icon Carl Perkins, broke into spontaneous covers like "Mystery Train" and "You Are My Sunshine" and even wrote the the tune "Wanted Man" that Cash would debut at San Quentin prison just one week later. Their duet on "Girl From the North Country" appeared on Dylan's LP Nashville Skyline later that April and select tracks from the sessions leaked out into the bootleg world over the years, but much of this material has never been heard anywhere.
That will change... with the release of Bob Dylan (Featuring Johnny Cash) -- Travelin' Thru, 1967-1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 15. The package (features) the legendary Johnny Cash sessions, but it also has outtakes from the 1967 John Wesley Harding sessions and Nashville Skyline sessions that have never been bootlegged, along with a couple of Johnny Cash covers recorded for Self Portrait in 1970, the soundtrack to Dylan's 1969 appearance on The Johnny Cash Show, and selections from Dylan's 1970 home recording session with bluegrass great Earl Scruggs and members of his family. " - Andy Greene, RollingStone.com, September 2019
SIDE A - OCTOBER 17, 1967 COLUMBIA STUDIO A, NASHVILLE, TN JOHN WESLEY HARDING SESSIONS:
- Drifter's Escape (Take 1)
- I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine (Take 2)
NOVEMBER 6, 1967 COLUMBIA STUDIO A, NASHVILLE, TN JOHN WESLEY HARDING SESSIONS
- All Along the Watchtower (Take 3)
- John Wesley Harding (Take 1)
- As I Went Out One Morning (Take 1)
- I Pity the Poor Immigrant (Take 4)
- I Am a Lonesome Hobo (Take 4)
SIDE B: FEBRUARY 13, 1969 COLUMBIA STUDIO A, NASHVILLE, TN NASHVILLE SKYLINE SESSIONS
- I Threw It All Away (Alternate Version, Nashville Skyline)
- To Be Alone with You (Take 1)
- Lay, Lady, Lay (Studio Rehearsal)
- One More Night (Take 2)
- Western Road (Take 1)
FEBRUARY 14, 1969 COLUMBIA STUDIO A, NASHVILLE, TN NASHVILLE SKYLINE SESSIONS
- Peggy Day (Take 1)
- Tell Me That It Isn't True (Take 2)
- Country Pie (Take 2)
SIDE C FEBRUARY 17, 1969 COLUMBIA STUDIO A, NASHVILLE, TN THE DYLAN-CASH SESSIONS:
- I Still Miss Someone (Take 5)
- Don't Think Twice, It's All Right / Understand Your Man (Rehearsal)
FEBRUARY 18, 1969 COLUMBIA STUDIO A, NASHVILLE, TN THE DYLAN-CASH SESSIONS
- One Too Many Mornings (Take 3)
- Mountain Dew (Take 1)
- Mountain Dew (Take 2)
- I Still Miss Someone (Take 2)
- Careless Love (Take 1)
- Matchbox (Take 1)
- That's All Right, Mama (Take 1)
- Mystery Train / This Train Is Bound for Glory; Mystery Train\ This Train Is Bound for Glory (Take 1)
- Big River (Take 1)
- Girl from the North Country (Rehearsal)
- Girl from the North Country (Take 1)
- I Walk the Line (Take 2)
- Guess Things Happen That Way (Rehearsal)
- Guess Things Happen That Way (Take 3)
- Five Feet High and Rising (Take 1)
- You Are My Sunshine (Take 1)
- Ring of Fire (Take 1)
SIDE E FEBRUARY 18, 1969 COLUMBIA STUDIO A, NASHVILLE, TN THE DYLAN-CASH SESSIONS
- Studio Chatter
- Wanted Man (Take 1)
- Amen (Rehearsal)
- Just a Closer Walk with Thee (Take 1)
- Jimmie Rodgers Medley No. 1; Blue Yodel No. 1 (T for Texas)\ The Brakeman's Blues (Yodeling the Blues Away)\ Blue Yodel No. 5 (It's Raining Here) (Take 1)
- Jimmie Rodgers Medley No. 2; Waiting for a Train\ The Brakeman's Blues (Yodeling the Blues Away)\ Blue Yodel No. 1 (T for Texas) (Take 2)
SIDE F MAY 1, 1969 RYMAN AUDITORIUM, NASHVILLE, TN LIVE ON THE JOHNNY CASH SHOW ORIGINALLY BROADCAST ON ABC-TV, JUNE 7, 1969
- I Threw It All Away (Live on The Johnny Cash Show) (Mono)
- Living the Blues (Live on The Johnny Cash Show) (Mono)
- Girl from the North Country (Live on The Johnny Cash Show) (Mono) (with Johnny Cash)
MAY 3, 1969 COLUMBIA STUDIO A, NASHVILLE, TN SELF PORTRAIT SESSIONS
- Ring of Fire (Outtake)
- Folsom Prison Blues (Outtake)
MAY 17, 1970 THE HOME OF THOMAS B. ALLEN, CARMEL, NEW YORK WITH EARL SCRUGGS
- Earl Scruggs Interview (Mono) (with Earl Scruggs)
- East Virginia Blues (Mono) (with Earl Scruggs)
- To Be Alone with You (Mono) (with Earl Scruggs)
- Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance (Mono) (with Earl Scruggs)
- Nashville Skyline Rag (with Earl Scruggs)