Nashville musical eras are defined as much by dominant session players as they are by producers or labels. These musical mercenaries are as much part of the continuing country tradition as is the Opry. Players love to play, and they love to listen to whatever is out there, be it Hank Williams or the Beatles. And when Bob Dylan traveled to Nashville to record in the late 1960s, Music City musicians were ready for a shake-up.
Dylan took Robbie Robertson and a few others with him to Nashville and recorded Blonde On Blonde with a select group of session men: Charlie McCoy, Kenny Buttrey and Wayne Moss. In addition to their generational differences, these Nashville players also had strong R&B experience that contrasted with the musical backgrounds of Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer.
When producer Elliot Mazer (Neil Young, etc.) put together a Nashville session for Ian & Sylvia, he noticed the power of these same session players, and suggested a collaborative project. Recorded at Moss’ studio, the album included Moss, Buttrey, McCoy, banjoist Bobby Thompson, guitarist Mac Gayden, David Briggs on piano, Buddy Spicher on fiddle, Norbert Putnam on bass, and Weldon Myrick on steel. The group was dubbed Area Code 615 to signify its Nashville base.
They recorded only two albums, both reproduced here in their entirety, along with two bonus cuts. Songs range from the Beatles to Dylan to Otis Redding, with some originals thrown in for good measure. Most tracks are instrumentals, but they are fascinating in the way they synthesize country, pop and R&B elements into a seamless sound.
Area Code 615′s roots and influence were somewhere between the establishment and the outsider music culture. The band’s interplay not only foreshadowed the New Grass movement in bluegrass, but also enticed artists such as Neil Young (Harvest) and Linda Ronstadt (Silk Purse) to come to Music City to record with members of the group.