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Album Spotlight: Charlie Daniels Band, ‘Off the Grid – Doin’ It Dylan’

Doin It Dylan
Blue Hat Records

Charlie Daniels shows a nuanced appreciation for Bob Dylan‘s catalog with the 10 songs on his recently released ‘Off the Grid — Doin’ It Dylan’ album. There are a few of the expected hits, but most are deep-cut surprises that the country singer is a better fit performing.

Fans won’t find ‘Rainy Day Woman’ or ‘Lay Lady Lay,’ but the will find ‘Country Pie,’ ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ and and ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.’ These are countrified versions to be sure, but Daniels’ voice and preferred instrument work out the finer details like only a man who’s intimately familiar with what he’s playing is capable of. There’s no sense that he’s simply trying to make a quick buck.

Daniels was in Dylan’s band to record three albums from 1969 to 1970. ‘Country Pie’ is the only song he chooses from that period for ‘Off the Grid.’ His is a piano and fiddle-full version. “Oh me oh my / I love me a country pie,” he sings on a song that missed it’s chance to be a Nashville hit.

Fans will find the Tennessee resident at his best on the faith-driven ‘Gotta Serve Somebody.’ Piano, hand drums and a gentle acoustic provide a canvas for the song’s spoken-word message. An unsaid secret for both men is that neither sings as much as he talks to a beat. This is more obvious on ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ later on the album.

The final track to note is ‘Hard Rains a Gonna Fall.’ Daniels tells Taste of Country many of the songs he chose don’t necessarily inspire him lyrically. In fact he seemed to be indifferent to lyrical content, instead choosing to acknowledge a great American songwriter the best way he can with the songs that best fit his style.

Daniels and early ’70s Dylan seem to be coming from disparate social and political agendas, but that doesn’t get in the way of the interpretation. ‘Hard Rain …’ is thought to be a protest song. Daniels sees it as a song about the end of times. It goes to show that being true to what an artist intended may not be necessary for an inspired performance.

Key Tracks: ‘Gotta Serve Somebody,’ ‘Hard Rains A Gonna Fall,’ ‘Tangled Up in Blue’

Still Friends: Daniels was in Dylan’s band decades ago, and the two hadn’t talked for years before speaking shortly before this album’s release. Dylan called the country star saying that while he hadn’t heard the album he supported the idea.

Did You Know?: Of the 10 songs, ‘Country Pie’ is the only one Daniels helped Dylan record.

Next: See All New Albums Coming in 2014

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