Waylon Jennings: The Lost Nashville Sessions CD Review

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Waylon Jennings: The Lost Nashville Sessions, available now on CD and vinyl.

I'm not a big fan of modern country music. I recently spent an hour in a greeting card store--I'm very picky about my cards--and I finally asked am employee what we were listening to. "Modern Country on Pandora," she replied. "Okay, but is this just one really long song, or what? I've heard the same chords in the same time signature for nearly an hour. The same alcoholic references too, near as I can tell." The young lady turned and walked away in huff. Everybody is so easily offended these days but I guess I don't have much room to talk. After all, I'm offended by failed rock star wannabes yodeling about beer, thinking that wearing a cowboy hat makes you a cowboy. It doesn't. Wrangling steer, that makes you a cowboy. 

Waylon Jennings was a cowboy. He was also the godfather of "Outlaw Country," and one of the “Wild Bunch of Nashville” that drove country music in the 70s and 80s. Waylon, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash sang songs about country life they actually experienced firsthand while living lives of excess you'd usually associate with hard partying rockers like Mötley Crüe. I have always been especially fond of Johnny and Waylon, gifted with the ability to write timeless songs sung with deep, luxurious voices. 

A new CD (also available on vinyl if you prefer a more retro sound) has been released called WAYLON JENNINGS: THE LOST NASHVILLE SESSIONS. It includes fourteen tracks originally recorded in 1970, and many are songs Waylon fans know by heart.

"Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line"
"The Choking Kind"
"Stop the World and Let Me Off"
"Anita, You're Dreaming"
"Just to Satisfy You"
"Green River"
"Singer of Sad Songs"
"Love of the Common People"
"MacArthur Park"
"Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
"Mental Revenge"
"Time to Bum Again"
"Sunday Morning Coming Down"
"Young Widow Brown"

I was excited when I heard about the release, as I usually enjoy hearing alternative versions of classics to get a sense of what a given musician was trying to accomplish with a given song. Sometimes a change of tempo is all it takes to go from "didn't make it on the album" to "chart topping hit of the year." Sometimes it's a lyrical tweak, finding a better word or phrase on the ninth take. Maybe it needs a different bridge between the second chorus and the third verse. Some of those changes are obvious here, with the whole sound of "Only Daddy That Will Walk the Line" feeling a bit thinner than I remembered. There are tracks that didn't sound particularly different, but they were ones I've not heard in so long that my memories offer too little to compare them to, such as "The Singer of Sad Songs." My favorite tracks on the CD are "Stop the World and Let Me Off," "Green River," "Singer of Sad Songs," "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," and "Young Widow Brown."

The album was produced by long time Waylon collaborator Robby Turner, who added new instrumentation and background vocals. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this. If anyone know Waylon well enough to have an accurate sense of what he might have done to finish these tracks himself, it's probably Mr. Turner. On the other hand, if it were me at the mix board I probably wouldn't have added anything at all. Robby Turner's voice sounds more contradictory than complimentary on some tracks, and there's something to be said for preserving found treasures in their found condition. 

If you're a longtime fan of Waylon, you'll likely enjoy hearing these alternative takes and covers. If you're something of a purist, you might not be so enamored with the ways Robby Turner "cleaned up" the tracks. If you're a modern country fan, you probably bailed on this article halfway through the second paragraph. That's okay; enjoy your drinking songs and run-on chords. I'll stick with the real country music, thank you kindly. 

Grade: 
3.5 / 5.0