Charlie Daniels Does Dylan on New Album: 'He Doesn't Have Boundaries'

Charlie Daniels

Charlie Daniels

The country rock veteran played on three Dylan albums -- now, he's paying tribute with "Off The Grid: Doin' It Dylan'

The names Bob Dylan and Charlie Daniels might not necessarily go together, but the southern rock giant says there is a definite tie between them. "Back in 1969, he came to town and recorded Nashville Skyline, and I worked as a studio musician playing guitar on that album," Daniels told Billboard. "I later went on to record two other albums of his – 'Self Portrait' and 'New Morning.'"

The music of Bob Dylan had always had a hold on Daniels, who pays tribute to the singer-songwriter on his new album "Off The Grid: Doin' It Dylan'" (due April 1). "I've always been a big fan of his. We decided to record an acoustic album. We recorded one cut for a TV show a little while back, and liked the way it sounded. So, we said 'Let's do an album that way, and I thought what better than an album of Bob Dylan tunes. So, we went in and cut ten of them. They're Bob Dylan tunes, but we definitely did them in CDB style."

As a fellow songwriter, what is it about Dylan's work as a tunesmith that has stood the test of time? "It's the way he uses the English language – the way he puts chords together," he says. "It's very irreverent as far as trying new ideas. He doesn't have any boundaries with what he does. He puts chords together that you wouldn't ordinarily think about putting together. I've compared him to William Shakespeare sometimes – not in the flowery sort of way that you think of Shakespeare, but he's just as unique to me in the way he puts the English language together."

Off The Grid features the CDB's take on such classics as "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" and "The Times They Are A-Changin," which Daniels says is one of his favorite Dylan compositions. "I think if there was a quintessential Dylan song that personified what he has meant and what he has documented, I would say that would be it. The times really were changing. Back in that time – we went through such a tremendous social change in this country, and things turned around so much. There were two generations that didn't understand each other. He spoke to parents, congressmen, to everyone. 'Gather 'round people, wherever you roam, and admit that the waters around you have grown, and accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone.' People used to call it protest music, but it was more documentation to me. He was saying what was going on in the country. Look at the way he put it, what beautiful words he put it in. To me, that personified Dylan."

Another track on the album is "You Gotta Serve Somebody," a song that Daniels says has always spoke to him. "I'm a Christian, and I think Dylan hit a nerve with that one. When it comes down to it, you are going to serve somebody. There's only two entities that you can serve. It might be the Devil or it might be the Lord. It puts it pretty plain. You may be the President of France, you might lie to gamble, or the heavyweight champion of the world, but you are going to serve somebody. It doesn't make any difference who you are – rich, poor, high, low, or in between, you've got to make up your mind who you're gonna serve. I think it's very well said."

Daniels will be working many of the songs from the project into his live show. After all these years, he says there's nothing he doesn't like about the touring experience. "That's the cream of the crop for me. That's why I do this. I love it all, recording, writing, publicizing it, and everything about it. But, the one piece that I love above all the rest is performing for people live. There's nothing I do that compares with that. I just thank God that I can make a living doing something I enjoy so much. Being on the road is just as natural for me as it is for someone who lives in the suburbs to drive into the office every day. That's my life, and the way I choose to live it. I don't mind the travel or any part of it. In fact, I thrive on it. I'm just as home in my bed on the bus as I am in my bed at home."