99. "John Wesley Harding" (1967)
"I was gonna write a ballad," Dylan told Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner. "Like maybe one of those old cowboy [songs]... you know, a real long ballad." Instead, the title track on his 1967 album was a taut parable about outlaw morality. John Wesley Hardin was a late-19th-century badman, but Dylan's evocation of a "friend to the poor" who "was never known to hurt an honest man" is less about a particular character than celebrating a rugged American past that fit the rootsy turn his music was taking. Recorded in Nashville with drummer Kenny Buttrey and bassist Charlie McCoy, it's a masterwork of ascetic idealism.