Waylon Jennings “Honky Tonk Heroes” (1973)

    Yesterday we had a rock band who aspired to be country outlaws, today we have the real thing with country music legend Waylon Jennings.  Today’s album is “Honky Tonk Heroes”, which is rated as the #5 album on tasteofcountry.com’s Top 10 Greatest Albums of All Time.  This particular album was created when Waylon came into contact with songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, who convinced Waylon he had an album’s worth of quality songs to record.  He was absolutely right, this is pure country music at it’s finest, a mix of up-tempo foot-stompers and melancholy ballads in Waylon’s inimitable voice.  Country legend Chet Atkins, who produced this album, initially pushed back on the concept, but ultimately together, they created a great record.

     The album opens with the title track, which starts as an acoustic up-tempo track that only accelerates as the band comes in, a really great and unusual start to a country album.  The next two tracks, “Old Five and Dimers Like Me” and “Willy the Wandering Gypsy and Me” are both slow ballads that are just right, such good contrast to the up-tempo songs that are intermingled throughout the album.

     I really love every song on this record, but none grab me the way the second to last song does, “Black Rose”.  It shocks me that this song wasn’t released as a single, as this song is wildly infectious, the kind you fall in love with the very first time you hear it.  The melody and tempo of this song is absolutely perfect, and it contains one of my favorite verses I have heard in a song in a long time.  Sometimes we just can’t help ourselves…

     “The devil made me do it the first time, the second time I done it on my own…

     Considering this is Waylon Jennings day, I have to pay tribute before I wrap up, to my two favorite “outlaws” of all time, my Dad and my Uncle Bill, who first introduced me to the ways of Waylon and Willie, many years ago.  Their favorite song whenever they were together was “Luckenbach, Texas”, sung jointly by Waylon and Willie Nelson.  While that song is not on “Honky Tonk Heroes”, this album captures the same feel and authenticity of the beauty of country music, just as we hear in “Luckenbach, Texas”.  Tonight I will raise a glass to those two Ark City Bandits and their amazing sister who will always be my favorite outlaws, and if I close my eyes, I can still see my uncle’s truck with the bumper sticker “Willie Nelson for President”….  Amen.

Published by tacopepper

A music fan...

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