I’ve been kicking myself since I heard this song in the movie Silver Linings Playbook, because I should’ve known this song already. It’s a perfectly bare duet between Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, greats in their own rights, but softly gorgeous together here on this track.
The song was originally written by Dylan and appeared on his second studio album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, in 1963. This duet version was recorded with Johnny Cash and included on Nashville Skyline, Dylan’s ninth studio album in 1969.
It’s rumored that the song was about Dylan’s then girlfriend, Suze Rotolo. There had been a rift in their relationship, and Dylan went to visit her in Italy at about the same time she returned to the States. Dylan stayed alone in Italy and wrote the song suspected to be inspired by the demise of their relationship. However, they eventually reconciled and he convinced her to move back into their apartment on 4th Street in New York. She’s the famous girl walking with Dylan on his album cover, their arms intertwined.
On February 17, 1969, Dylan was recording Nashville Skyline in Nashville and his friend, Johnny Cash, stopped by for a visit. The following day the two musicians recorded a number of songs together, reworking old favorites from their own catalogues as well as tunes by Carl Perkins and Elvis, but only one track was deemed usable, The Girl From The North Country.
The forlorn quality to the stripped down acoustic guitar twang, combined with the powerhouse duet of famously lone minstrels Cash and Dylan, make this song a beautifully heartbreaking ballad.
Similar Dylan songs: Boots of Spanish Leather, and Red River Shore.