In 1969, rock & roll was starting to get harder and heavier. New groups like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Blind Faith were experimenting with an aggressive, raw sound that delighted a new generation of fans. Bob Dylan, as usual, was on a very different trip. He went back down to Nashville to cut a simple country record. If that wasn't enough of a change, he was suddenly singing in a completely different voice; even some longtime fans didn't initially recognize they were listening to a Dylan song when "Lay Lady Lay" came on the radio.
Dylan recorded many songs with Johnny Cash during these sessions, but only a duet on "Girl From the North Country" made the album. While the record puzzled some Dylan fans, most people found it extremely warm and charming. "Lay Lady Lay" became a huge hit, and Dylan even made a rare television appearance to promote the album on The Johnny Cash Show. It would be a long five years before Dylan released another widely praised work.