Back when Charlie Daniels was a working musician and not a star, he played on three albums by Bob Dylan -- he played guitar and bass on the sessions that became Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, and New Morning (which means he also shows up on the acclaimed 2013 archival release, Another Self Portrait (1969-1971)) -- so his decision to cut an album devoted to Dylan is not out of the blue. What is surprising is that Off the Grid: Doin' It Dylan isn't one of Daniels' tossed-off latter-day albums, but rather a record where Charlie really digs in, savoring the interplay of his band as well as how the words feel in his mouth. Daniels does indeed choose a few of Bob's densely written songs -- "Mr. Tambourine Man," "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall," and "Just Like a Woman" are here, none of them seeming like easy fits on paper, but each carried with conviction by Charlie -- along with country-rockers that are sure bets: the rollicking ditty "Country Pie," "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," and "Tangled Up in Blue," whose narrative gets trimmed down and sped up without losing its power. That impassioned reworking of "Tangled Up in Blue" -- which finds a counterpart in a nicely raucous back porch rendition of "Quinn the Eskimo" -- goes a long way toward explaining what's so joyous about Off the Grid. Daniels enjoys not the words of Dylan so much as the melodies and music, using these songs not as ruminative reflection but full-bore celebration. Even the ballads -- and there are a few here -- are played for keeps and if that music-first emphasis is a relative rarity among Dylan tributes, it's also true that it's been a long time since Daniels has sounded as engaged on a record as he is here.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine