Sound — 8
The guitar sound of Dylan's early works is great in my opinion. The acoustic folk sound of finger-picking and ragged strumming may sound harsh to some, but I think it contrasts with Dylan's voice well. The finger-picking style of 'In My Time of Dyin' and 'Baby Let Me Follow You Down' are amazing. The style of playing in the songs 'Fixin' To Die', 'See That My Grave is Kept Clean', and 'Gospel Plow' include the picking of the lower strings over the strum of a D chord. This, though used similarly in all three songs (not to mention songs later in Dylan's career), presents a fairly original and catchy sound that keeps the tempo through songs that may lag due to Dylan's raspy voice. Overall, the sound of the album is even and--even though repetitive--fantastic.
Lyrics — 7
Bob Dylan's debut album is approached in a way that I can only describe as 'lyrically safe'. Contracting only two original songs, the self titled album is mostly compiled of traditional folk songs. Of those songs that weren't written by Dylan, the lyrics are sound, but it is impossible to credit him for them. When looking at the originals, 'Talkin' New York' and 'Song to Woody', it is hard to ponder there significance. His future works far surpass these songs, but they are no less important to his career. 'Song to Woody' is a song written for Dylan's major influence, Woody Guthrie. When hearing this song when it was first released, when there was no other Dylan songs to compare it to, it would have sounded genuinely grand. It is a brilliant tribute song to another brilliant musician. The second song, 'Talkin' New York', is better than 'Song to Woody' in my opinion. Though Song to Woody was more of a hit to mainstream listeners, I find 'New York' more down to earth and simple. It describes Dylan's beginnings in New York, and how he played coffee houses and was picked up for a record deal. You can also hint at the start of what would become Dylan's thrashing wit in his songs (A lot of people don't have much food on their table/But they got a lot of forks n' knives/And they gotta cut somethin'). The two songs are the tip of the iceberg in Dylan's writing, and the selection of the other songs are great.
Overall Impression — 8
Despite the small amount of original Dylan music, the song arrangements are original and stand out from folk predecessors. As a debut album, it is an amazing work that became a springboard to the career of one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Furthermore, the original songs tabbed on to the album are personal favorites of mine, but did not reflect Dylan's ability to write respectfully. The favorites of this album are 'House of the Risin' Sun', 'Baby Let Me Follow You Down', and 'Song to Woody'. However, my personal favorites are the deeper cuts ('Man of Constant Sorrow', 'In My Time of Dyin', and 'See That My Grave is Kept Clean'). I would listen for the guitar style, because it is a favorite of mine, but the only problem for me (and one of my only problems with the album itself) is the repetitive use of the same patterns. Overall, it is one of my favorite Dylan albums and is definitely worth the listen. If you haven't heard the songs on this album and are a fan of Bob Dylan, you need to hear the album.