Reviews

Waylon Jennings – The Lost Nashville Sessions

waylon jennings
By Brian Rock

New Waylon Jennings album.

That’s probably all you need to know to make up your mind about getting a copy. But for those who are curious, the album is titled The Lost Nashville Sessions, and features 14 unreleased versions of Jennings originals and covers. The sessions were originally recorded in July of 1970 as part of a radio series designed to help recruit soldiers for the U.S. military. Never released to the public, the recordings were sent as “promotional use only” materials to select radio stations.

The recordings capture a brief moment in Jennings’ storied career. Ten years removed from Buddy Holly’s touring band, and just a few years before becoming a full-fledged Outlaw Country icon, this album showcases both Waylon’s musical roots and his looming stardom.

“Love of the Common People,” “Young Widow Brown,” and the Chuck Berry classic, “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” represent his rockabilly roots.

“Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line,” “Stop the World (And Let Me Off,)” and his cover of Kristoferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” give a clear indication of the legendary direction Waylon was just beginning to explore.

Most of the songs fall between these two distinct periods of his career. They are a fascinating time capsule, not just of Waylon Jennings, but of Country music in general in the late sixties. Less popular than its Rock and Roll cousin and less polished than Motown, Country music was struggling to find its identity and often borrowed from other genres to compensate. “Anita You’re Dreaming” is a perfect example. A typical, Country broken-heart story, the musical arrangement adds a Calypso beat complete with marimbas. “Green River” has traditional themes of love, longing, and the land, but again the music includes pop piano and a string section. And Waylon’s cover of “MacArthur Park” (the official studio release of which actually won a Grammy for best Country song) epitomizes Country’s lack of distinctive character. If sung by someone else, these songs would sound like Burt Bacharach movie theme songs. But Waylon’s distinctive, commanding voice manages to redeem them.

The fact that Country music did indeed find its identity in the 70’s was due largely to the influence of Waylon and fellow outlaws Willie Nelson, David Allen Coe, and Kris Kristoferson. Listening to the recordings on this album is like walking across that musical bridge from the muddled, unfocused Country of the 60’s to the proud and unabashed Country of the 70’s. They also give hope to those who feel Country has again lost its bearings, reminding them that one single voice can inspire others to correct course and follow suit. More importantly, listening to these songs is like reconnecting with a long lost friend.

Waylon, we miss you. It’s so good to hear your voice again.

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