Matthew T Grant

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Tall Guy. Glasses.

In Praise of Waylon Jennings

Back in ’88 I really dug the Cowboy Junkies’ The Trinity Session. Their spacey take on country (had “alt country” been invented yet? I mean aside from Rank and File?) was deep and cool. From the spare lonesome of “Mining for Gold” to the bleak landscape of “200 More Miles” and the druggy swing of “Working on a Building,” I was hooked.

My favorite song on the album, however, was “Dreaming My Dreams With You,” a dark waltz drifting up from the void with a hopefully hopeless refrain: “Someday, I’ll get over you.”

I think I knew that the song was a cover, as was about the half the album, but I didn’t actually hear the original until, some 17 years later, I bought Waylon Jennings’ Dreaming My Dreams at a cd shoppe in Santa Monica. More than a novelty or a hip re-working of hip and semi-hip tunes, I recognized this album immediately as a classic, a keeper.

Seriously, this album is rock solid, perfect. It’s focused and restrained, under-produced, but at the same time muscular, virile, intense. “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” chugs out of the gate, relentlessly working it’s two chords, maintaining a tone that’s both confessional and confrontational, daring you to get in its way. ┬áThe next tune, “Waymore Blues” is surprisingly and crassly vulgar (see video below). “I Recall a Gypsy Woman” is sentimental kitsch, saved by a sincerely expressed sense of loss. And so on.

The band is road-hardened, world-weary, tough as nails. Waylon’s voice, drifting as it does from a lascivious drawl to a sturdy, honky tonk baritone, is wise, human, hungry. And the songs are a perfect mix of backwards-looking nostalgia, invoking the ghosts of Hank Williams and Jimmy Rogers, and gritty, contemporary (mid-70s), cowboy urbanity.

Every time I listen to this record (I still call them that), I’m astonished.

Here’s the man himself invoking his poetic license:

Category: Music

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