Waylon Jennings sadly passed away in 2002 following complications from his diabetes. Battling drug addiction until the mid-80s, Jennings was plagued by health issues in later life and died at the age of 64. Despite his personal issues, Jennings had a successful career that hailed the arrival of outlaw country, a subgenre of music that offered a sound steeped in tradition rather than adhering to the more polished country sound of the 60s and 70s.
In 2015 Don Was and Buddy Cannon organised a tribute concert to celebrate the impact and enduring influence of Jennings’ music. Featuring stars such as Chris Stapleton, Lee Ann Womack, Kacey Musgraves and Willie Nelson, Outlaw: Celebrating the Music of Waylon Jennings was recorded at ACL Live at The Moody Theater in Austin Texas. Almost two years on from that event, it has finally been released as a CD/DVD package.
In a time when the age-old debate about ‘what is country music?’ rages on, it’s timely to revisit the music of Jennings. Outlaw kicks off with Chris Stapleton performing I Ain’t Living Long Like This, which was a number one hit for Jennings in 1979. Stapleton is one of the current crop of country stars that have taken on the outlaw country mantle so it’s fitting that his presence builds the bridge between Jennings and his own music. It’s an uptempo start to a collection of performances that pay touching tribute to Jennings fantastic catalogue of songs.
Over the course of Outlaw, some of Jennings’ past collaborators make appearances. Jessi Colter takes on Mona and Willie Nelson appears throughout, flying solo on the highlight Till I Gain Control Again. Alison Krauss reprises her cover of Dreaming My Dreams With You, which was released in 1999 as part of her album Forget About It. Her emotive performance has the audience whooping and hollering in the middle of the song and it’s a stunning version of the track.
Elsewhere on the release Kacey Musgraves puts her on spin on The Wurlitzer Prize, Bobby Bare impresses on the punchy Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line, and Ryan Bingham rasps his way through Rainy Day Woman. Jennings son Shooter also performs Whistlers and Jugglers early on the set.
The DVD part of the release features the entire evening. It’s a shame that I Can Get Off On You by Willie Nelson and Sturgill Simpson was omitted from the CD but I’m glad it’s present as part of the DVD. Simpson is another artist, like Stapleton, who is leading the charge when it comes to modern outlaw country music. Extras on the disc include several featurettes, one of which sees the stars from the event talking about the influence of Jennings on their own music and careers.
Outlaw: Celebrating the Music of Waylon Jennings does exactly what it says on the tin. The assembled musicians honour Jennings’ incredible songs while putting their own spin on it. If you’re not overly familiar with Jennings’ music, you’d be forgiven for thinking that some of these could be original recordings that are relevant in today’s country music. If nothing else, this collection will have you digging out your Jennings records and remembering just what an incredible artist he was.
Track List: 1. I Ain’t Living Long Like This – Chris Stapleton 2. Whistlers and Jugglers – Shooter Jennings 3. Mona – Jessi Colter 4. Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line – Bobby Bare 5. Ride Me Down Easy – Lee Ann Womack 6. Yours Love – Lee Ann Womack & Buddy Miller 7. Freedom to Stay – Jamey Johnson 8. The Wurlitzer Prize – Kacey Musgraves 9. Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way – Robert Earl Keen 10. I Do Believe – Kris Kristofferson 11. Rainy Day Woman – Ryan Bingham 12. Dreaming My Dreams with You – Alison Krauss 13. I Ain’t the One – Alison Krauss & Jamey Johnson 14. Honky Tonk Heroes – Toby Keith 15. Lonesome, On’ry and Mean – Eric Church 16. Till I Gain Control Again – Willie Nelson 17. Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys – Willie Nelson & Toby Keith 18. My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys – Willie Nelson & Chris Stapleton 19. Highwayman – Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Shooter Jennings & Jamey Johnson 20. Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love) – Willie Nelson & Full Ensemble Release Date: 14th April 2017 Record Label: Sony Music