Charlie Daniels doesn't conform to modern sounds. He doesn't care about popular trends in music. He cares what is coming from his heart. He cares about America. So what happens when you combine a good ole southern rocker with an American songwriting icon? You get Off The Grid: Doin' It Dylan. And it's only appropriate considering that some of Charlie's earliest work as a guitarist was on Dylan's 1969 release, Nashville Skyline. Charlie then went on to continue his work with Dylan on Self Portrait and New Morning.
This 10-piece masterpiece hits the Dylan standards with that remarkable CDB sound which gives it their own identity as if they belonged on Charlie's albums in the seventies. It is Charlie's all out acoustical assault on Dylan. Dylan soaked in country, with a damn good fiddle!
Off The Grid starts off with "Tangled Up in Blue" which lies somewhere between the CDB and the Marshall Tucker Band. Damnit, I love it! I'm not even surprised I made that comparison considering those boys ran around together back in the seventies.
Charlie moves on to "The Times Are a Changin." It worked for Dylan years ago, but does it work for the CDB? I wasn't a fan of the original version, so to me, it is an improvement.
The CDB keeps it going with "Be My Baby Tonight" which is somewhere between, again, a Tucker Band song and the CDB's "Long Haired Country Boy." Dig it!
The CDB gets funky with "Gotta Serve Somebody" which was always a funky Dylan song. Didn't know Charlie could get funky? Go get ya Honey in the Rock and listen to "Funky Junky." Charlie slows down on the funk and covers the great Dylan tune "I Shall Be Released." To me, the ultimate version of that song was by The Band, but the CDB gives it a good effort.
To be honest, I like this album quite a bit and I like the energy, but it does slow down with "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Just Like a Woman." Sandwiched in there is "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall." True to original form, you would almost think it is Leon Russell singing, but Charlie keeps the vocal styling close to the original. But, we all know Leon did it his way. Vocally it is very good, and I can dig the piano! These three songs offer up a different side of the album in a much slower tempo.
And speaking of vocals, Charlie's vocals are just as strong and robust as they were back in the day. No special effects, none of that auto-tune garbage. Just clear crisp, southern enriched vocals!
However, as good as it all is, the CDB finishes damn strong with one of my favorite Dylan songs. Leon covered it. Manfred Mann covered it; Phish and the Grateful Dead. Yes, we are talking about the "Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)." The Dylan version is a wonderful rock and country stomp, and Charlie's version hits that lofty expectation. However, the pinch of Bluegrass makes it irresistible. I can dig the all-out country fried assault Charlie puts on it!
Dylan fans can crucify me. I can't say that I am big Bob Dylan fan, but I have much appreciation for his musical contributions and there are many songs of his I find very good. However, for Charlie Daniels to take classic Dylan songs and give them a completely different sound takes courage and passion; and we all know Charlie is known not to back down from something he feels passionate about.
That passion lies within the songs of Bob Dylan.