Songwriter and singer Waylon Jennings is probably best remembered as one of country music's original "outlaws." But as the songs on a new tribute album called Lonesome, On'ry And Mean make clear, Jennings was more than just a rebel.
John Doe's version of Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line is just one of 15 tracks on Lonesome, On'ry And Mean, the new tribute album to the late Waylon Jennings.
If only one performer personified the "outlaw" country movement of the 1970s, it was Waylon Jennings. Though he had been a professional musician since the late 1950s, it took almost 20 years for him to become a star. Why? Like Buck Owens before him, Waylon Jennings rejected the way things were done in Nashville. He insisted on doing things his way; refusing to work with studio musicians, and instead, insisting on recording with his touring band when it was time to enter the studio. And then, he fought hard to make sure his recordings didn't sound like the string-laden, pop sounds that were coming out of Nashville at the time.
In 1970, Waylon recorded two songs by a promising, but struggling songwriter named Kris Kristofferson. Jennings credited Kristofferson with bringing a new maturity and sophistication to country music. On Lonesome On'ry and Mean, Kristofferson returns the favor, singing I Do Believe, one of the last songs Waylon wrote.
The variety of singers who perform on the album emphasizes the vast influence that Waylon Jennings had on different styles of popular music. Who would have thought that hard rocker Henry Rollins, who recorded the album's title track, was a Waylon fan? But the onetime punk musician says Jennings was an influence, and he was happy to be asked to participate.
One of the best performances on Lonesome, On'ry And Mean isn't country at all. Instead, it's Grammy winner Norah Jones, performing Wurlitzer Prize in the same jazzy style that won her all those awards.
You may not know it to hear her sing, but Norah Jones says fellow Texan Waylon Jennings influenced her musical style, adding that it was a great honor to be asked to perform on Lonesome, On'ry And Mean.
Hit songwriter Radney Foster says he has been a Jennings fan since he was growing up in Del Rio, Texas. He also became a friend after his own songwriting career brought him to Nashville. Foster's contribution to the tribute is a plaintive version of the hit Luchenbach, Texas, recorded with Roger Creager.
Other performers on Lonesome, On'ry And Mean include Guy Clark, Dave Alvin and Nanci Griffith. The tribute album pairs 15 songs with an eclectic mix of singers. We most often think of Waylon Jennings as a performer, not a writer. But with new versions of Waymore's Blues, Good Hearted Woman and Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way, the tribute also does a good job of showcasing the music of Waylon Jennings, the songwriter.