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Waylon Jennings

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Waylon Jennings, "Honky Tonk Heroes," RCA APLI-0240; "This Time, " RCA APL10539; "Waylon the Ramblin' Man, " RCA APL1-0734

Waylon Jennings is country. I mean COUNTRY. I mean Lubbock, Texas, not John Denver, Colorado. Like his voice sounds like he practices in the Grand Canyon. He puts those wimpy country singers in their e-lectronic echo chambers to shame, 'cause he carries his echo chamber in his chest. If you dig heavy country music, down and dirty, then you're probably hip to Waylon. Of course, if your brand of country is the aforementioned Mr. Denver then you probably take bubble baths anyway.

Waylon, now 37, was a member of the hip Nashville triumvirate with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson (pre-Rita Coolidge). They all did each other's tunes and hung out together, since they were the outcasts, the bad boys of Nashville. But the people were getting hip. Waylon did the opening set at the Grateful Dead concert May 23, 1973, (Kezar Stadium) to a standing ovation. Now. Dead Freaks aren't always reliable barometers. After all, they think Jerry Garcia can sing, but this time they were right on.

Waylon recorded "Honky Tonk Heroes" as a tribute to Billy Joe Shaver. a little shaver who wrote all the tunes except one. It would be intellectual bullshit to call it a concept album, but gosh it sure do hang together. It really is about honky tonk heroes and their own brand of livin'. Even the titles take you away from here. "Old Five and Dimers," "Ain't No God in Mexico," "Low Down Freedom" are obviously songs about a different breed.

Obviously, got to be a '"Ramblin' Man" (no, he sings "Midnight Rider" instead). Waylon sings of being everywhere, which he probably has, but the power of that voice (mature enough at 12 yrs. old to land him a DJ job) will knock you over the fastest on the gentler "drinkin' and thinkin'" songs. "We Had It All" (on "Heroes") or "The Hunger'" (on "Ramblin' Man") are the saddest and baddest songs of leavin' and hurtin' you'll ever need to hear.

For these three albums, RCA finally let The Waylors, Waylon's travelling band, record with him, realizing that studio Musicians just can't be as tight as a band that has been together for ten years. They may be the finest country band around, low and mean, with a touch of sassy lead guitar.

RCA promo men tell me that women and young people are already hip to Waylon. If you're neither one of those, you i probably aren't reading this anyway. But if you always sort of liked country music but were ashamed of what your friends might say. pick up on Waylon Jennings to start off. If any of your "friends" snicker, just flash the cover photo from "Ramblin" Man." That steady Waylon gaze will shut 'em up right quick. "Honky Tonk Heroes" is the best of his career so far but any of the RCA albums are heavy enough for any collection. Just don't file them near your James Taylor discs. You're likely to melt the vinyl off of  "Sweet Baby James." "Carolina in my mind ." indeed. Texas in my gut!

-Bruce Weinberg