Early in 1992 Bob Dylan went into the studio with David Bromberg and recorded an album’s worth of material. None of these tracks would be used on his next album. Dylan would return to the recording studio and record a large number of cover songs that would become Good As I Been To You.
The first thing that I noticed about this album was the personnel listed on the jacket. It read Bob Dylan-vocal, guitar, harmonica and that was it. This was far different from the multitude of singers and performers that had been appearing on his recent albums. The original Dylan had returned.
Producing an album of cover songs worked well for him. This return to his simple folk roots seemed to rejuvenate his career. He began as an interpreter of songs and remains one of the best in the business when he selects the proper material, which he does here. He may not have written these songs but they are his nonetheless. His use of only his acoustic guitar and harmonica served to accentuate the performances.
“Frankie & Albert” has been recorded hundreds of times, but he takes the song in a blues direction by using Mississippi John Hurt’s version. “Jim Jones” was an old Australian ballad. He had a penchant, at times, for using other artist's renditions without acknowledgment or compensation. This time he got caught as Marc Slocum sued him and won for copying his version of the song.
There are a lot of stellar moments on this album. “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” is the old blues tune by Walter Vinson. He strips this 1930’s blues classic to its basics. Just compare it to the version by the group Cream. “Tomorrow Night” has some classic harmonica playing. “Black Jack Davey” is a folk ballad from the early 1700’s and “Canadee-i-o” is from Canada. Both come to life as wonderful story songs. “Arthur McBride” is a violent Irish protest song and on it goes.
The album concludes with a six minute version of “Froggie Went A Courtin’” which generations of grade school children have sung in music class. This 16th century traditional Scottish song was a wonderful way to end the album in a fun and relaxed manner.
Good As I Been To You was an excellent release and proves that sometimes simple is best. Somewhere Woody Guthrie is smiling.