What’s the biggest knock against Bob Dylan? He can’t sing.
Sure, he’s no Art Garfunkel, but that statement (which can also be applied to Neil Young, Willie Nelson, David Byrne, and so on) is laughable in the face of a track like “Moonshiner.”
Dylan cut his own version of this old-as-dirt traditional ballad in New York City’s CBS Studios on August 12, 1963, the same day he laid down “Eternal Circle” and “Paths of Victory,” (all of which appear on The Bootleg Series Vol 1-3.)
“I’m just as good a singer as Caruso,” Dylan once famously said. “…You have to listen closely. But I hit all those notes. And I can hold my breath three times as long as I want to.” You can hear him pull it off too, on songs from his debut album like “Freight Train Blues,” and “Man of Constant Sorrow,” and the radio-show rarity “Hold on John.”
But it’s the way he bends and holds the notes in the verses of “Moonshiner” that perhaps best illustrates his point. “God bless them, pretty women, I wish they was minnnnnnne….”
Many have pointed to “Moonshiner” as one of Dylan’s best vocal performances ever. No arguments here.