Bob Dylan has completed his next album and joined Johnny Cash for a duet or two. The recordings were done in the middle of February at the Columbia studios in Nashville, Tennessee, produced by Bob Johnston and using several of the same musicians who played on John Wesley Harding.
“They are the songs I’ve been writing over the past year,” Dylan said in a telephone conversation from his home in upstate New York. “Some are songs that I’ve sung and never written down and just sort of turn up again.
“I can’t remember where they come from. I was just sitting down trying to write some notes on where the songs came from and I couldn’t figure it out myself.”
The Dylan record – containing ten or eleven new songs – was done in three mid-February sessions at the Columbia Studios in the Country Music Capitol of the World. In the last nights of Dylan’s stay in Nashville (February 17-18), Johnny Cash joined him and together they did about fifteen songs, one or two for possible use on the new album and the rest for a possible joint Cash-Dylan LP. Bob Johnston, who produced Blonde on Blonde and John Wesley Harding is also Cash’s producer (did the Folsom Prison LP, among many of Cash’s recent recordings) and helped bring the two performers together. It was also a natural outgrowth of the long-time friendship between the two singers.
“You don’t produce Dylan or Cash,” Johnston said, “they produce themselves.” Johnston hopes to record about fifteen more Cash-Dylan duets and take the best of them for an album. In February, they did songs like “I Walk The Line,” “Big River,” “Careless Love,” “One Too Many Mornings,” and “Understand Your Man,” among others.
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Cash and Dylan simply went into the studio and jammed for a while, sang some of Bob’s old songs, some of John’s old songs, a song they wrote together, did some rehearsed material and now have about three hours of tape if they want to release it as an album.
The new Dylan LP will probably be released before April 1, depending on how smoothly mixing, covers, liner notes and so on go. A Nashville photographer was used to take some shots and those are currently being considered for the cover. “I’ve done my part,” Dylan said, “and I don’t know any more about it.”
Session men on the date included Kenny Buttrey on drums, Charlie McCoy on bass and Pete Drake on steel guitar, all of whom played on John Wesley Harding. Joining them were Norman Blake, a guitar teacher from Chattanooga on rhythm guitar (and dobro on the “Understand Your Man” duet); Charlic Daniels, who played dobro, Fender electric guitar and acoustic gut-string guitar (“a fine song writer, you’ll be hearing a lot about him”); and Bob Wilson, Wilson, from Detroit and currently a Nashville session-man, on piano (“you’ll be hearing a lot about him too”).
Some of the song titles are “I Threw It All Away,” “One More Night,” “Country Pie” (“Anything like ‘Honey Pie’?” “No, wish it was”) and “Tell Me That It Isn’t True.”
“I can’t, remember too much about how I wrote the new songs. It depends on where I am, what the weather is like and who is around at the time. The music is a little of everything. You’ll know what it is when you hear it. I can’t remember that much about it. The new songs are easy to sing and there aren’t too many words to remember.”
This story is from the March 15th, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone.